Standing Up for Myself

Authored by:
Hannah S.

I know, I know. It seems like you heard from me yesterday. Well, I have important news: I switched host families! Although I didn't mention it here, I'd been thinking about it for awhile, and I want to talk about why and how it came to pass. 

I had a really hard time at first deciding if I wanted to switch families. I'm (I know a bunch of my friends from the US will think this is a lie as soon as they read it) not a confrontational person, and I hate burning bridges or feeling like I've hurt someone's feelings. I knew that I was uncomfortable in my previous family, but I felt as though I needed someone to tell me that my discomfort warranted a change. The great thing about CIEE is that they let you make your own decisions. The awful thing about CIEE is that they let you make your own decisions. I knew that nothing was going to change if I didn't do something, but I wasn't sure if I should do something. I do, however, recognize the importance of knowing when to fix something, and knowing when it's too broken to be fixed. If you are reading this as someone in the same situation I was in, know that you need to try. About two weeks ago, I finally realized that I needed to start to stand up for myself. I decided to spend a week trying as hard as I possibly could to make it work with the family, but I also started to discreetly ask some of my friends if they knew of anyone who could host me.

And I did try. But in that week of really trying, it became clear to me that changing families was the best option for me. Thankfully, one of my friends (my current host brother) told me that his parents were open to hosting, so I went over to his house to meet his family. It was clearly a pretty perfect match, so I started talking to the CIEE staff in both Portland and Sevilla to make my change possible. 

It's incredibly hard to find a new host family, and even harder if you aren't open to changing schools (I love my school, so I wasn't). For this reason, and since I wasn't in any danger in my old family, I knew that I needed to initiate the change. And let me tell you, doing so has completely changed my experience for the better.

My new host family are some of the sweetest people I've ever met. My host mom is a physiologist and my dad an engineer with a telecommunications company. They have a 15 year old son and a 13 year old daughter. They are constantly smiling and laughing, and I love hanging out with them. I moved in on Thursday and I already feel at home. My parents treat me exactly like their own children; my host sister and I ask each other for advice on stuff we've bought, and I help her with math homework, and my host brother and I watch Narcos together, Skype my parents or friends back in the US in fluent Spanglish, go out with friends, or fake fight each other (I'm a black belt in karate and he just started jujitsu). My life is normal, and I'm happy. 

I guess what I'm trying to say in this post is that if you are an exchange student, you have to remember that you have control in almost all situations, and you need to stand up for yourself. Alright, my host brother just came home from his drum lesson and shoved an earbud in my ear so I could listen to what he was air-playing guitar to, and the family cat is sitting next to my computer, sniffing the screen curiously, so I guess that signals it's my time to go. 


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