When students decide to go on an exchange year, they usually collaborate with an organization that is the “middleman” between them and the country they are going to. One of the requirements is a completed questionnaire and a letter addressed to a possible host family. After reading those documents, the family chooses an exchange student. Students can refuse host families if they don’t feel a connection but they have to wait to be picked again.
The host family that picked me has already had 15 exchange and international students before I came around.
On that questionnaire, there is one page addressed to double placement – an agreement that the host family can take two or more exchange students – that needs to be signed by both parties. I didn’t want it in the beginning, but I was suggested to revisit the idea when my host family picked me. I did, and because I felt they were perfect for me, I agreed to have a “sister”. Sadly, she left sometime in the first semester, but I am glad I got to meet her.
It felt weird in the beginning, having to rely on and trust people I’ve just met.
Host families don’t get any money neither from the student, the state, nor the organization. They usually pay for food and offer the student a place to live. From there on, every family has its own rules.
My host mom likes to say she knows that her students feel at home in her house when they start drinking from the glass in front of her. I think it’s accurate. Still, I started doing that later in the year because Covid-19 is a pretty good reason not to.
I can’t think of the exact moment I realized I felt truly at home. It was a process, but I can certainly say: I feel it now… a lot… in fact, I don’t want to leave. Does anyone feel like adopting me? No? Ok… I guess I’ll have to go home.
Other exchange students are not as lucky as I was. After living with their host families for a while, they can decide it’s not a good match. A regional coordinator checks in on all exchange students from that area. Also, the students can reach out anytime about any problems that appear. The coordinator is the person to talk to when making this kind of decision, and, if necessary, he/she can start looking for another host family.
I was fortunate enough to get paired up with an amazing host family.
I feel like I have another home across the ocean. It’s crazy to think that I have to leave a family just to go and see another one.
I’ll always be homesick, wherever in the world I’ll find myself at the moment. That’s not a fun thought to have before falling to sleep.
I loved it here and my host family is one of the most important reasons for that.