By Vanessa Zuidema
Have you recently arrived at your host family in New York? Are you feeling a bit of culture shock?
One of the biggest challenges some students face after arriving in New York is learning to adjust to life with a host family. 10 years ago, I experienced the same challenge when I moved to France as a university student. You may relate to the account below…
At 19 years old, I left my university in the US to live in Paris for a year. I wanted to learn the language, travel Europe, and understand a different culture. The most difficult adjustment I had to make was that of living with a host family. Upon my arrival things seemed to go downhill. The family was not at the apartment to greet me (I was locked out for a few hours after a long international flight). They had 3 children (I didn’t want to live with kids). They smoked (I don’t). The meals were nothing like what I would normally eat. Breakfast was just coffee and some bread and it was always self-serve. Dinners were sometimes served at midnight!
After the first few days I thought: no way, I can’t live like this for a year.
But quickly things began to change. After a few weeks, I was having an easier time understanding the language because I had no choice but to speak it at home. My host mother and father were throwing parties on weekends and I was meeting lots of Parisians. By “Parisians” I mean people from Japan, Poland, Egypt, Morocco and many other places – all who had settled in Paris, spoke French, and now called that dynamic city “home”. After a few months, I realized that I had a really great situation and by the time I left Paris I knew I had the best experience possible because I opted to live with a host family.
If you’re unsure about living with a host, just remember: it’s not supposed to be easy. It is a huge cultural adjustment and remaining open minded is the only way to make it a memorable experience.