Host family noun. a family which opens its doors to experience a new culture and provides a home away from home.
One of the most special things about our Nanjing program is the host families! The loving and generous families try their best to give students an immersive experience and a second home. When asked what students were most anxious about the first day, many replied living with their host families. Not only is there a language barrier, there is also a cultural one! However, as the days become weeks, students gradually get used to their new lives. They get into the routine of going "home" after school and having dinner with their host families every single night. It is important to Chinese families to all sit down and be together for dinner. Students also spend weekends with their host parents and host siblings traveling Nanjing. Throughout the magical process of adjustments, misunderstandings, and creative forms of communication, students have successfully moulded into local life in Nanjing.
Here is a glimpse of what some students are doing with their host families in Nanjing:
1. *Guest-authored by Jenna Braun, a lovely student in Class 1 from San Diego, CA:
My last weekend in Nanjing was spent with two of my classmates, Olti and Allison, and our host families. We started the day off by visiting the Nanjing city wall. I was surprised how long it was (about 13 miles!).
We only walked about 1/4 of it before heading back home. For lunch, our families took us to hotpot.
While I was there I tried duck blood and cow stomach. I didn’t like them very much, but I was just happy I at least tried it! Out of all the things we did that day, making dumplings was my favorite part. Our host moms were trying to teach us how to fold them perfectly, but in the end I didn’t do too well on my own. However, even though the dumplings I made weren’t the prettiest, they still tasted extremely delicious!
2. *Guest-authored by Sophie Alexis, a wonderful student in Class 1 from Palo Alto, CA:
Before I came to China, I was equally terrified and excited to meet my host family. After all, I would be living with them for a month -what if we didn’t get along? What if I had to spend all of my time in my room watching badly rendered clips of American shows on baidu? Thankfully, as I near the end of my time here, I can say that as cliche as it sounds, I have found a second family here. We’ve gone grocery shopping, running on the 长江 (Yangtze) River, and even attended a wedding together! My host sister and I have become close friends through Starbucks runs, late night boba and binge watching tv (we’ve especially bonded over our mutual love for Skam, an obscure Norwegian television show). My host father and mother have also been incredible in every way. They write down words I don’t understand and are so protective and accommodating. My host mother and I especially have become close over breakfast, where we talk about cultural differences between America and China as we both struggle through with broken chinglish. Every day is filled with incredible surprises, whether it be new matching t shirts or making homemade nougat. They’ve given me a 中国家 (China home) and made an unfamiliar country seem like home. I’m going to miss all of them.
3. *Guest-authored by Amina Almatova, a delightful student in Class 2 from New York, NY:
Transitioning into any new environment is overwhelming and often difficult; however, if I learned anything from living in China for four weeks is that anything is possible when you are surrounded by a loving host family. It makes you feel welcomed and secure as you do overlook differences and strive towards discovering shared values. I came to such conclusion during the first weekend with my host family. Previous to that Saturday, I have told my host mom that in order to fully immerse into Chinese culture I wished to experience what life is for students in Nanjing . Unfortunately, schools during summer holidays do not permit visitors. My host mom being the great person she is, reached out to her friend, a teacher at Nanjing’s best high school, and booked us a time to visit and explore the school. Such care and consideration of my wishes lead to further adore my host family. After witnessing differences between American and Chinese education systems, we went on to eat a splendid lunch at a traditional area (古老的）of Nanjing named 1912 after its resemblance to the architectural styles of that time period. Later on in the day, we decided it would be interesting to visit 老门东，another traditional neighborhood part of ancient Nanjing. There we noticed several women wearing beautiful and intricate traditional Chinese clothing of the dynasty period. As soon as my host parents noticed my excitement they offered to take to me try on some of similar dresses. Unexpectedly, the salon offered more services other than simple rent of the clothes. They would also do my makeup and hair! All within the realms of the dynastic China. As they were doing my makeup, the artist pulled out a very strange tool which I initially thought was for shaving of eyebrows. However, I thought they wouldn’t do something so crazy! Further into the process, I felt something off and decided to look into the mirror. HALF OF MY EYEBROWS WERE GONE! Overall, the experience was very unique and amusing. Through this very emotionally diverse day I discovered various aspects of Chinese culture such as : although people do not often show care through physical touch, their affection is seen through constant thought and concern of your interests and wellbeing, support when the day isn’t as planned, and most importantly, overall love and respect to other cultures. All these characteristics are embodied perfectly by my host family and my experience with China.