Surviving the homestay
Living with anyone is going to have its ups and downs. But when you’re finding it rough and hating your host for their little quirks, remember that it’s tough for them too. Sure, they might be getting paid, but opening your home to a stranger isn’t easy. Opening your house to a young person from the other side of the world who you can’t always communicate with really, really isn’t easy. Just like you, they’ll be having their bad days too. Cut them some slack.
2. Act like an adult (even if you’re not treated like one)
Unless your host really is just evil – unlikely – they probably want to see that you’re happy and comfortable in their house. For a lot of host families, however, this can often mean chasing you down the road with an extra coat, force feeding you extra portions of potatoes, and other problems you’ve not had to put up with since you were 12. Going back to this after the independence of work and university is tough – but you’d be surprised by how many people deal with this by reverting to stroppy teenage mode. So, you want to go out every night of the week, but your host wants you to stay in – hiding in your room, breaking curfews and slagging them off to your mates isn’t going to help. Try a bit of compromise. Even if you don’t think you’re going to like the food you’ve been given for example, at least try it. Pouting and hiding it under your plate really isn’t acceptable for anyone over the age of six.
3. Keep an open mind
Even back in the UK, different families do things in different ways. You might find their obsession with not wearing shoes in the house strange, but they probably find it just as weird you want to tie up your shoes in bed every morning. Some things will take getting used to: a lot of my friends in Russia don’t have a washing machine, and are washing their clothes by hand. Yes, it’s strange at first. But, really, is it the end of the world? No. Just make sure you get all the washing powder out of your underwear.
4. Try to get on (but don’t worry if you don’t)
You’re never going to end up as best mates, but getting on with your host will make your stay a lot easier. Most people love to talk about their children/grandchildren/cats and if you find that magic conversation starter, you’re pretty much set. And if you don’t get on- so what? Your year abroad isn’t a popularity contest; it’s about immersing yourself in a language. You might not be having long, cost chats over dinner, but even the most basic chats that crop up when you live with someone will still help you practice.
5. Set your boundaries
Compromise might be the golden rule, but if you really aren’t happy about something, speak out. A quiet chat with your host might be all you need to clear things up – choose a time when your host isn’t busy, prepare what you want to say, and go in armed with a dictionary. If there’s something more serious, or if talking doesn’t work, get in touch with someone who can help, whether that’s the university or the company who set up the homestay. Paying rent doesn’t mean you can do what you want – but you have the right to feel comfortable and happy where ever you are.
About the Author... Katie is a Sheffield student on her year abroad in Petrozavodsk in Russia. For her latest updates, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter @katiedavies91.
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