Living with a host family is a privilege. It is not only an ideal way to learn a language; it also provides you the means to better immerse yourself in a foreign culture, as well as give you opportunities to forge meaningful relationships. While you should not feel obligated to spend time with them constantly, being a respectful guest is a responsibility that you should take seriously. Here are some important tips to keep in mind:
1. If you are unfamiliar with their language, be prepared to learn some basic phrases prior to arrival.
While you are not expected to be fluent in the language, knowing some phrases, such as greeting someone else, is important. Learning some phrases beforehand will not only help you learn the language, but show respect for your host.
2. Bring a present for them on your arrival.
Think of a gift that is local to the United States, or even your hometown. Your host family may appreciate learning more about you and where you come from. A small gift also shows that you are aware of their hospitality.
3. Be courteous of your host family’s rules, space, and possessions.
This is probably the most important rule to keep in mind, and cannot be emphasized enough. Be aware of what space is yours, and what space is not. Keep your space clean at all times. If you want to bring a friend over for the evening, know your family’s protocol about having guests. Even if your host has rules that are strange to you, follow them anyway.
4. Try getting to know them.
You should not feel obligated to spend time with your host family at all times. However, as you will be there for a while, show genuine interest in them. Trying to understand their interests and pastimes will not only help you learn the language, but also help your develop friendships, which will contribute greatly to a meaningful study abroad experience.
5. Talk to your director if you have any problems.
If you feel that your host family is significantly hindering you from having a positive experience abroad in any way, talk to your director. You should not have to handle potentially difficult situations on your own. Your director can help you resolve issues that may arise, or find new accommodations if need be.