A practical stranger just walked into my room in her underwear to tell me not to be so rough with the cold water handle of the kitchen faucet.
Yes, living with host families is an adventure but can also be one of the most rewarding parts of a study abroad. It’s an adjustment to suddenly be sharing personal space with people you hardly know but here are a few rules of thumb that can help make the whole experience a little smoother for all.
Follow their rules, not yours. One of the biggest adjustments of attending college in general is that not everyone grew up with the same sensibilities as you did and the things you thought everyone knew (i.e., obviously mustard should be kept in the fridge) might be a ‘just you’ thing. That gets compounded fourfold when you are in a different family and a different culture so when your host family sets up initial guidelines, follow them. Even if it’s not how you would ever do things, you are in their home and you should respect their rules.
Monkey see, monkey do. For all of those other things that just have a big question mark and for which those new strangers whose , two words: watch and learn. Try to be observant and aware of the way things are done and follow suit.
Communicating isn’t stepping on toes. Don’t assume, ask! If there’s a language barrier, use some clever props or charades; through giggles and victorious discovery, they’ll figure out what you mean. Don’t feel like you’re being silly or an imposition for communicating your issues. Solving those issues will make you a less imposing presence.
Show your gratitude. Most of all, remember to be gracious and courteous! Your host family has opened up their home to you; learn all that you can learn from them because you will have no better opportunity for cultural immersion. Maybe, just maybe, these complete strangers can become like family after all.
Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.
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