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5 tips for surviving a difficult homestay transition

As seen in USA TODAY College:

5 tips for surviving a difficult homestay transition
By McKenzie Powell, Ohio University August 19, 2015 3:42 pm

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter having spent a year or two in college and away from the constant surveillance of your overprotective parents, it may seem daunting to know that your upcoming study abroad program is placing you in a homestay — a housing option presented to may study abroad students that allows them to live in the home of a local family.

Although it may seem like all of your independence is about to be taken away from you in one fell swoop, try to enter the living situation with an open mind before passing judgments or making assumptions. remember the positives of living with a host family: cultural and linguistic immersion.

“I think it is one on the best ways to complete an immersion program. If the student is well integrated into the family, a homestay could be excellent to improve language abilities — especially day-to-day language that we do not necessarily find in books,” says Gamo Mbow Tounkara, resident coordinator for the Council on International Educational Exchange’s study abroad programs in Dakar, Senegal.

If you have been living abroad with a host family for a little while now and just can’t seem to get things right, here are five tips for surviving a difficult homestay transition:

1. DOES IT SEEM LIKE YOU AND THE MEMBERS OF YOUR HOST FAMILY JUST AREN’T CLICKING?

First, try and assess the situation. Does the entire family seem distant, or just certain individuals like the parents? Are you often staying in your room or leaving the house to avoid the living situation or are you actively trying to spend time with your host family?

In the beginning, your family may try and give you some space to get adjusted to your new life abroad. If, once you have adjusted, it seems that particular people still just don’t seem very interested in you, or you are still being secluded in specific situations, contemplate certain cultural influences and differences as these could be major factors. More often than not, what may seem negative to us — like being sent to a different room to eat on your own — was actually intended to be a positive, kind gesture.

Go into each new day with a positive, open mind and keep trying to integrate into the family, even if it still seems like you just can’t fit in. Don’t avoid your family out of fear or misunderstanding. Instead, start mingling with the children and work your way up. Ask questions, participate in family activities, offer to help clean and continue to show your genuine interest and desire to become a part of the family.

2. HAVE YOU BEEN HAVING ISSUES WITH COMMUNICATION DUE TO AN EXTREME LANGUAGE BARRIER?

One of the most frightening aspects of living with another family in a foreign country is the fact that they are probably speaking a different language than you, perhaps one that you have only been able to practice in the comfort of your own home university with other beginners.

“If language is the only barrier, I think that it’s not a problem at all. I would just advise them to relax, not worry about making mistakes and be accepting to learn the language from the family,” Tounkara says.

While it may be terrifying at first, this is also one of the greatest benefits of living with a host family, as it allows you to dive head first into cultural and linguistic immersion. If you are having a difficult time keeping up with conversation during dinner or answering questions while hanging out with your family, start carrying a dictionary with you to look up any forgotten or unfamiliar words. This is nothing to be ashamed of and can work wonders in getting to know your family on more than just a “how was your day” basis.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask any children in the family for their help in teaching you key phrases, slang words or just general words you have never learned. They will more than likely love teaching the older, new kid in their family how to say things and it will also allow for some great bonding time with your little siblings. If you are really struggling, take these new words and phrases that you have learned and write them down a few times every night before bed to really start retaining and memorizing your vocab.

3. ARE YOU IN NEED OF A HEALTHY WAY TO EXPRESS EVERYTHING YOU’RE LOVING AND HATING ABOUT YOUR LATEST LIVING ENVIRONMENT?

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