I think a major worry anyone would have before going abroad is the fear that they will get homesick and miss their families. Being hundreds of miles away and not being able to run home to mom when you are sick or had a bad day is a scary thought. Luckily, there is the choice of doing a homestay while you are abroad. By choosing to do a homestay, you become part of a new family. This was the choice I made when I studied abroad with CEA Global Education in the summer of 2012 in Vina del Mar, Chile. I was so blessed to have the most wonderful Chilean host family. My host family was chosen by CEA and all of my living arrangements were set up for me. I didn't have to worry about a thing! It made the time leading up to study abroad a lot less stressful.
One of the main reasons I chose to do a homestay was becasue I was studying Spanish and I wanted to improve my speaking skills. The homestay was a great way to do this because my host family only spoke Spanish, so I was forced to speak Spanish if I wanted to communicate with them. Another reason I chose to do a homestay was because I wanted to be fully immersed in a new culture. I wanted to see first-hand the Chilean way of life; How they eat, dress, what they do day-to-day. I learned so much just by living with a family.
Another huge reason for doing a homestay was security. I wanted to feel safe and I wanted to have someone to help me know where to go and what to do while I was abroad.
My host mother was the greatest. She did everything for me! I was so spoiled. She did my laundry every day, cooked me meals, packed lunches for me to take to school, taught me about the Chilean money and how to use it, showed me how to use publich transportation, helped me with my homework, the list goes on and on. She did so much for me in such a short time. She managed to do all of that for me, and treat me as one of her own children, but at the same time she didn't smother me. She realized I was only there for a short amount of time and I wanted to see and do everything I could. She was so cool about letting me go and do things with my friends, even if it meant missing a family meal.
My host dad was also pretty great. He was a professional chef! So obviously, he made the best meals! He was also hilarious. I got to be a part of the grand opening of his own restaurant where he is the head chef. I also go to meet many of the family's friends. I was also able to spend a lot of time with my host sister. Although, she lived outside of the home I saw her every week and we talked and got to know each other.
My host family has been hosting exchange students for quite sometime, but they were still genuinely interseted in getting to know me as a person and including me in their family. There are so many things I would have been left to figure out on my own, or had to worry about taking the time to do - such as laundry - when I could be spending that time exploring!
I am still in contact with my host family via Facebook, email, and Skype. If I ever go back to Chile, or should I say when I got back to Chile, I will not hestitate to call them! I know they would have me in a heartbeat, and that is pretty awesome. Instead of having to find a hotel or figure out where to stay, I will always have a home in Vina, and to me, that is the best part about doing a homestay while you are abroad; It is a home and a family that you will be a part of for a lifetime.
Samantha Timmerman studied abroad in Vina del Mar, Chile in Summer 2012 and is currently a CEA Alumni Ambassador and junior at the University of Wisconsin Stout.
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