Monday, September 3, 2012

The flip side of the coin

So, up until now I've been giving some advice here and there and talking about my study abroad process. You know, applying to study at Japan Women's University, etc. Well, as far as that goes, right now is fairly uninteresting. I'm expecting my acceptance (fingers crossed) letter in November and until then there is not much to do except apply for scholarships. Which, for those of you starting your study abroad in the Spring of 2013, the application deadline is October 2nd.

So now, the flip side of the coin. Being a host family. This week I am preparing to receive my third round of exchange students. Two years ago I hosted one student through the FFIS program at the University of Oregon for the first time. It was strange, but things worked out. Last year I hosted one student officially and one unofficially. The unofficial student was a friend of the girl I hosted the first year and I was glad to help out. The second one, Ayumi, has become like a 3rd sister and hosting her was one of the best experiences I've had in college thus far.

The 家族 (family), with Ayumi front and center!
This year is a little bit crazy, but I'll manage. The FFIS program had a 50% increase in the number of students requesting a home stay program. Long story short, this year I am hosting two students officially. You see where this is heading? And one, a friend of Ayumi's who unfortunately was not lucky enough to be placed with a host family, unofficially. The two official students will stay with me for about a week and half until the dormitories open while the third student stays at a local hotel while otherwise enjoying the other benefits of a home stay program, minus the program.

As you can probably guess, we're working like crazy to get my house into tip-top shape right now before students arrive on Wednesday. So, what does this home stay program entail other than a roof over their heads? For starters, it provides a home base. For some students, this is their first time abroad ever. They have no contacts, no fall back plan and they may not have 100% grasp on the English language. So by being their host family you are providing them the peace of mind knowing that they have somewhere, and someone who they can turn to if things get to be a little bit too much for them.

Second, you get to help with all the fun stuff. Okay, well, yes and no. The first priorities are usually helping set up bank accounts and help set them up with phone plans. Those are necessities anywhere. Then you really get to help with the fun stuff. Show them around town, show them where the good food is, the best places to shop, teach them the bus system and generally make sure they don't get lost in that first week or so.

Then you get to do the REALLY fun stuff. Like take a spontaneous day trip or have a welcome party. I feel that it helps the student get settled in if you have some sort of welcome party after they've been with you for a day or two and makes them feel like they are wanted rather than a burden because they really are wanted!

After they move into the dorms a few different things can happen. Things don't really pan out, so you end up losing contact with each other. Hey, you can't win 'em all. You can become fair-weather friends. Visit every now and again, grab lunch, become friends, but nothing really more than that. Or you can end up with some really new awesome best friends. I'm not saying you have to hang out every day, but sometimes you just click with a person and you end up with a new member of your BFF or family circle. It's always great when that happens!

Photo copyright of www.etsu.edu


So, the hard parts of being a host family. I love hosting students, but sometimes it can get to be a bit too much. If you're running around all day helping someone set up their life without taking out 5 minutes for yourself you're going to get burnt out. Help your student, but also remember to schedule some down time. If you're tired they probably are too (and you don't have jet lag!), so plan to be home early, watch a movie, or just take a lunch break around town.

All those trips around town can get expensive fast. Try and sit down with your student and make a list of what they need to buy before you go shopping. It's okay if you don't get it all in one go, but having a list ahead of time will drastically decrease the number of trips you need to make.

I have the "get outta my kitchen!" angst for the first day or two I have a student. My mommy raised me to be a good host, in fact, I swear we're almost Greek some days. We make sure that our guest(s) are taken care of and offer food at every turn. Are you hungry? No? Wants some water? Juice? Snack? Really, it's no problem. Just a little... we have crackers. It's a never ending dance. But without fail around dinner time usually the student wants to help make dinner. At this point my host-y self kicks in roaring to go sit back, enjoy yourself, this is my kitchen. At the same time I think it makes your host student feel more comfortable if you allow them to help out even if you have to shove your host-senses back to the 13th century.

Wow, that was a lot more than I was planning to write at 2:45 in the morning. Haha. I hope that all makes sense. If not, someone send me a comment and tell me so. Please?

On another note, we're on the FINAL LEG of summer classes! 4 days left to go! Woo! Third year of Japanese down in one summer, we'll find out in a couple of weeks just how "down" I've really got it once fall classes start. Which leads us to my last picture, my Japanese class! We've shrunk a bit since the first session this summer I think, but we're pulling through because we're an awesome group!

University of Oregon's Japanese 303 Summer class, plus guests for Japanese Hour

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