- Be mindful that in some countries you should use the formal title of someone when you first meet them. For example, always address your prospective host parents as Mr. Mrs. or Ms. until they tell you otherwise. It reflects good manners.
- They might have rules, and you may not like them, but you still need to listen. They have opened their home to someone they have never met so these rules may relax once they get to know you better but, until then, just respect them and their space.
- If you should encounter a real problem, speak with the director of your program or someone other than other students. Nothing gets solved by complaining to people who cannot change anything.
- Expect to be uncomfortable! It’s okay, you’re somewhere completely new with people you barely know. Tough it out; often things become much more relaxed as time goes on. You may even want to visit your new family after your program ends!
- Ask questions. If you are unsure if something is allowed or not, ask first. It can avoid unnecessary embarrassment or confusion. Something you may take for granted could be taken much more seriously where you are staying.
- Take the time to get to know your host family! They often have a lot of knowledge about the area, they do live there after all. Besides tips and tricks for your host country and culture, they can offer you a different perspective on life which is a huge part of education abroad. Expand your knowledge. If you are trying to learn a language in your perspective country, your host family is your best resource for speaking. They know why you are there and will be very willing to help you.
- Let your host parents know if you have travel plans and when you plan to be home. They have taken responsibility for you while you stay with them. Letting them know is not only courteous, but also helps you stay safer and them to feel more comfortable.
- Last of all, have fun and relax! All will be alright. Host families can be the most valuable and most memorable part of an education abroad program.
Photo courtesy of Elden Winkelman.
Elden Winkelman is a senior at the University of Kentucky studying Foreign Language (German) & International Economics. Elden participated in a academic year-long Exchange program in Heidelberg, Germany in 2014-2015.