- Meeting your host family for the first time after a long flight can be overwhelming. They will greet you with open arms and affection and ask you all sorts of questions. Meanwhile, you are fighting jet-lag and struggling to understand them (if they speak a foreign language). If you look as confused as I did, they will promptly suggest you take a nap.
- Successfully communicating that you are full, and cannot possibly eat any more food, may be difficult. Like most grandmothers, host mothers take pride in feeding their students. To them, food is love. Stay strong and politely say “No thank you” again.
- Depending on where you go, there may be a risk of running into insects of greater size than you are accustomed. It may be necessary to explain to your host mom why you just screamed and that you need assistance killing this monster spider on your balcony.
- Bathrooms in foreign countries can be a little different than those in the U.S. No doubt you will have some form of awkward bathroom situation; for example, a clogged toilet or desperate need for toilet paper. No worries, these things happen to everyone. Go ahead and tell your host mom, the sooner the better.
- If you study in a country where a foreign language is spoken, you will realize you should have paid more attention in that language 101 course because you have no idea how to say several simple household words. You will have a very entertaining time trying to describe the words you don’t know in a roundabout way, but there is always the option to run to your room for the dictionary.
- If you are lucky, you will, at some point, be blown away by how awesome your host family is. My host mom took my roommate and me to all her family events, truly got to know us, and treated us as her own daughters. You will be amazed at how much your host family cares about you and every student they have had.
- If you have younger host siblings, be prepared that they will also treat you like a true member of the family. They will not exclude you from pranks and teasing and will be disappointed if you don’t play back.
- There will come a moment, usually after you have been on a weekend excursion to another part of the country, that you get home to your host family and it actually feels like home. After a long day of travel, you will put your stuff away in your room and be genuinely excited to tell them all about your weekend.
- At some point, you will break a cultural norm in your host family’s home. For example, while in Costa Rica, my host mom saw me petting a stray puppy and advised me to quickly wash my hands, looking disgusted. Host families understand that cultural differences exist and they will quickly forget the mishap.
- Saying goodbye to your host family could very possibly turn into crying with your host mom. Lots of hugs and emotions were present, but I took solace in the fact that it doesn’t have to be goodbye forever, just until the next time I come back to visit!
Michaela Wade is a junior at the University of Kentucky studying Spanish. She participated in a UK Partner program with SOL Education Abroad at the Latin University of Costa Rica in fall 2015.