Being in a host family can be hard, and scary at first. My first time abroad, the one thing I could not wait for was to receive my host family. I waited and waited for the notification to come and when it did I was more than excited. When I was 17, I got placed with my first home stay in Sevilla. My family had 2 kids, 2 dogs, and my host parents were named Rosana and Chelu. At first, I was so nervous. I was scared I would not be able to communicate and I did not want to overstep. What you have to learn is your homestays WANT you there and to be a part of the family. Within my first 2 months there, my homestay took me to Portugal and Scotland on vacation. They invited me to all sports games, took me to the gym, and honestly made me feel just as much their kid as their own. After that, host families became "easy" for me. I became comfortable entering different homes and becoming a part of a family. My second homestay in Salamanca was with a woman named Manuela, and my third homestay was with a woman named Aranzazu and a host sister, Holly from the states. In all of my home stays, I developed a strong relationship with each family and genuinely felt a part of a new community. Through all of my home stay experiences, I found meaning in each experience and found new ways to navigate home stay conflicts.
My top tips for homestays are:
1: Communicate. You do not like a food tell them (or they will make it everyday), if you want to clean your own room tell them (a lot of times families will go in and clean your room), if you have any other issue or something that is bothering you, you need to communicate it. More often than not they are willing to hear what you have to say and it is not a problem! You want to take care of it before it becomes a problem that really bothers you!
2: Be open. Sometimes you are going to have to get used to the fact host families do things differently, and you have to respect their culture and traditions. Try not to judge and be open to understanding.
3: Do things with them! Ask your host family to go on a walk, go to a café, watch a movie, make dinner together, anything that gets you talking I recommend doing! I also would recommend doing homework in the living room, and trying to be in each other's presence.
4: Talk to them before going abroad. Before you go to the abroad country, reach out to your host family, try to get to know them. I also recommend getting a little gift for them that represents home!
5: Share your cultures! The best thing about homestays is getting to share cultures and build a relationship. Talk about where you come from and your identities!
Being in a host family can be daunting, but it is the most rewarding experience. My host families remain important people in my life today. My first family visited me in the US and I am living with my second family (Manuela) again this January! I am so grateful for everything they have done for me.