Life in a Homestay
Posted on September 12, 2019 by
So firstly, I think it’s important that whoever reading this knows that prior to my study abroad trip I had never flown on an airplane before – let alone travel outside the country. I say that to let you know that if I had an amazing time in a homestay, I’m sure you will too.
Overall, I decided on a homestay for a few reasons. I wanted to get a good sense of what the culture/daily life was like in Jordan (I did a summer term in 2019 in Jordan FYI). I didn’t want my only knowledge of it to come from school and events I attended with my American counterparts. My program was for Arabic language and I thought living in a homestay would either get me to speak more Arabic or get my ears used to hearing it (and I turned out to be right!). Also, I knew that I would spend the end week(s) of Ramadan in Jordan and I wanted to see how a family practiced/celebrated the month.
The family I stayed with consisted of a mom, dad, two sisters close to my age, and a little brother about 10 years old. There was a questionnaire I completed to get matched with a family that I would get along with and I received information on the family before departure. I wasn’t sure if my family would be strict with a curfew so I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to see many things around Jordan. It turns out there wasn’t a curfew for me! My host mom was very encouraging of me and my housemate to go out and explore, which I look back on and appreciate because I got a lot of good memories outside the house that way. Now, some people in the program did have curfews but they were pretty reasonable. It’s important to remember that the families hosting you are partly responsible for you: they have to ensure you are safe, fed, and feel at home. I realized in Jordanian families; the family is pretty open with each other. Doors are usually kept open throughout the day and the family will watch tv and eat together. This is pretty common all-around Jordan, but can vary in the U.S., though the host families have been trained and have much experience hosting students, so going to my room with the door closed to get away for a bit was not something offensive to my family, and my mom even shooed my host brother away to give me peace when he wanted to play!
I was definitely nervous and quiet the first night and day, but I wanted my family to know I appreciated them letting me in their family. For me, asking them about their day, watching tv, etc was the way to do this. On the flip side I was reminded by my host family that their home was mine too, and to not feel weird about opening the fridge and eating when I wanted or lounging around the house. I can’t lie though, I’m pretty sure it took me at least two weeks to open the fridge and see what was inside, and a few more weeks before I walked in and fixed my own food on my own time. It’s little things like that I regret doing, because once I did, I felt even more at home and at ease. I did push myself in one way with my hijab. Even with my friends I don’t just take off my hijab the first time I’m in their house. My family already knew I would have my hijab on while the dad was around but, since he was gone most of the day for work my host mom would encourage me to take it off and be comfortable. To me that was a big step, and I’m sure she partly knew that as well, but I took it off in the house within the second week (if not the first) and it was another way that I felt really at home. I’m sure if you decide to stay in a host family there will be many things that seem trivial to others but to you it’s a big step towards feeling at home; maybe for you it’s showcasing your Funkopops collection on your shelf or drinking out of your favorite water bottle. When it came to food, my experience was great. I would wake up and breakfast would already be prepared during the week and on the weekends, I would eat breakfast spread with the family. I would eat lunch at school and eat dinner and late-night snacks at home, unless I went out. I remember I would be up at night doing homework and my host sister would bring me sliced melon, or cookies to eat. My host mom asked about my likes and dislikes when it came to food, but I was already pretty used to the food and was interested to try new things, so I don’t think I ever had any specifications. With that said, don’t feel ungrateful or nervous about informing your host parent(s) if there’s a food you absolutely despise or worse – are allergic to. My host mom, dad, and sisters (but especially my host mom) would often ask if I wanted seconds. Which was great because I mostly did. Though sometimes I would really be full, and my host mom would say “eat more it’s good for your” or hit me with a guilt trip by saying “oh is it not good? Not tasty?”, and I would more than likely give in and eat another serving of roasted eggplant or stuffed grape leaves. I showered, napped, watched tv in the living room, scrolled through Instagram while on the sofa, comfortably. One of my favorite memories is finding out that me and my host mom and sisters all like the same drama and watching it together at night during Ramadan. By living in a homestay, I gained an awesome little brother that helped reenergize me when long school days and awkward Uber rides took their toll. I played soccer with him, lost to him in Fifa repeatedly with my host dad laughing at our smack talk, had a “movie night” where we watched Mr. Bean animated shorts and ate chips, and so much more. I truly hope I get reunited with him again and see him grow up. I was also able to experience a Jordanian wedding with my host family. That was a really genuine experience that I may not have gotten if I wasn’t with a host family.
For me being in a homestay gave me a place of safety and familiarity that I sometimes needed after an overwhelming day. I liked being able to have a conversation or relieve some stress with people I felt -and I know I’ve said this a lot- at home with. The time difference often prevented me with talking with friends or family back home, but my host family helped fill in for them. I wish I stayed longer and made more memories with them and had deeper conversations. I really want to visit them again and hopefully I get to do so. If you do decide on a homestay, I hope your experience is even better than mine (though that’s a tough goal to achieve, my host family was awesome)!
*There were so many memories and topics I didn’t touch on because I didn’t want to make this post longer than it already was, so don’t be afraid to reach out if you have any specific questions!