My Home Away From Home: 6 Host Family Myths Busted
Post by Laura Jiménez, who studied abroad through Syracuse University in Florence, Italy. Click here to learn about the many opportunities to travel abroad at Babson.
Housing was not a factor taken into consideration when choosing my abroad program. In fact, it was not until we were informed that we were going to move from the orientation hotels to our host family houses that I came into realization that I was going to live with strangers, with no idea if they could speak English, or how strict they were, or what were their traditions. Four months after the program started, I did not want to move away from my host family. My experience with them was PERFECT, in all senses, and these are some myths that I want you to disregard when avoiding living with a host family.
1. Lack of freedom:
Not at all! Most of them, if not all, work. That means that you will have time by yourself in the house, if you want to use the TV, the computer, use the bathroom, have some snacks that they leave for you. They will not be bothered if you want to go partying and return at 5 AM. They know you are abroad and that you also want to have fun! They are trained for that! From my personal experience, I was out 4 of the 5 days of the week, and returned late. That was never a problem, as long as I was quite when back home.
2. Language is a barrier:
Yes, language will be a barrier if you are not open minded to learn the language. Going abroad means that you have to have the want of learning about the culture, including the language! They will all have a basic knowledge of English. Mine was fluent English, but still we spoke Italian because I wanted to learn Italian. I would watch the soccer matches with them, the news, or they would take me out for dinner and speak in Italian.
3. Conversations are awkward:
NO! Well, yes, at the beginning. But just be yourself and talk about your culture and opinions. They love to know more about the American culture! In my case, I was talking more about my own Dominican culture and my second hand perceptions of the American culture.
4. They judge your actions:
They know you are a teenager, they were one as well. In Italy, for example, people are very open about everything, and in family conversations, few things are taboo. Conversations are very open, and they will not judge your actions or thoughts, they will learn from them.
5. Not having friends over:
I don’t know if this is the case for everyone, but my host family invited my friends twice, for some wine, pasta and salsa dancing till one in the morning.
6. Host parents will limit you:
No, on the other hand, they will open many doors for you. Because of them, I went to three soccer matches for free, I met towns outside Florence, I learned more fluent Italian, I went to the right places for nightlife, shopping and dinner, and I was connected to people from the city.
Host parents care about you. They will give you rides if you need to, they will take you on their scooters, like my host dad did to me, they will make sure you have what you need, they will lend you their clothes if you need a sweater for the cold, they will be like your parents but with more freedom!
Indeed, I did not look into housing options when choosing my semester abroad program. But now, I am planning on studying abroad again, and this is a ‘must requirement’ when choosing my program.