Tag Archives: host family

My First Time Flying Alone

By Jonah Weingarten

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Throughout my life, I have traveled all around the world. I have been to Israel, Spain (twice), the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Costa Rica, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Mexico. Soon, I will also be going to Canada for the first time. Although I love traveling, there are some things about the traveling experience that haven’t always been easy for me: I used to struggle with traveling alone.

The first time I ever traveled alone was when I went to Costa Rica the summer after my freshman year of high school. I remember it clearly-it was 3:00 in the morning and I had just woken up. I was so excited to go abroad alone for the first time, but at the same time I was really scared. My flight was not until 8:30, but the program told us to arrive 4 hours before because of customs and traveling to South America. Since LAX was decently close to us, we left at 4 o’clock. The roads were completely empty and I already knew we could have left later. When we got to the airport, my mom parked and walked me to security. Since this was my first time flying alone, I was not quite sure what to do. I followed my mom to the bag check and we checked my bag and got my boarding pass. After that we headed to security where we said our goodbyes.

Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

The TSA line went pretty quickly and after 20 minutes I was sitting at my gate, listening to music and reading my book to pass the time. After what seemed like a full day we started to board and then just like that we took off to Houston for our connecting flight to Costa Rica. After 3 or so hours we touched down in Houston, and I met up with the rest of the group for our Costa Rica flight. Because it was such a short layover, it seemed like we got to Costa Rica in no time. I sent my mom a text as soon as we landed to let her know I had arrived. We landed in San Jose and stayed the night. The next day, we boarded a bus that took us on a 2-hour drive to the mountains where we were staying with our host families. The town was called Turrialba.

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The Universality of Human Connection

By Anthea Xiao

At a young age, I was introduced to and fascinated by Japanese culture through the channel of Japanese animations such as Studio Ghibli films and Doraemon. Eager to learn more about the Japanese language and customs, I enrolled in Japanese as my foreign language class and took the initiative to study Japanese culture on my own. My Japanese teacher recognized my passion and introduced me to an exchange program, which allowed students to live with host families and experience life as a Japanese High School student. I quickly seized the opportunity, and in the summer of 2016, I embarked on an unforgettable journey to Kanazawa, Japan.

Prior to flying to Japan, I diligently memorized Japanese phrases applicable for specific situations, read countless articles regarding Japanese etiquette, and even watched host-exchange “horror-stories” online from other students to prepare myself for any undesirable scenarios.

My heart was leaping out of my chest with anxiety and excitement when I saw my host-family waving the sign “ようこそ, アンセア!” (Welcome, Anthea!) at airport gate. During the initial stage of my stay, my host-exchange experience was exceeded beyond my imagination and expectations. I tasted a diverse array of authentic Japanese cuisines (a superb bowl of ramen was only $5 USD!), I quickly bonded with classmates through organizations such as the student acapella and traditional tea ceremony club, and I was able to improve my language ability through practicing colloquial Japanese outside of a classroom setting.

However, despite enjoying my host situation, I found it difficult to feel completely at ease with my host-family. I had read in textbooks that it is impolite to address Japanese people in an intimate or casual manner upon initial greetings. Therefore, although my host-parents asked me to address them as “mother” and “father” just like my host-sister did, I insisted on calling them Mr. and Mrs. Yoshida in fear of breaching their existing family structure.

The phrase “迷惑” (meiwaku) means to burden or to cause inconvenience for others. In Japan, a collective and harmony-focused society, causing meiwaku is a taboo and could signal a person as self-centered and uncouth. To avoid being seen as a meiwaku to my host-family, I refrained from seeking for help when I had trouble finding the way home from school or did not understand how to operate machine devices at home.

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The Triumph of Navigating a New Bus System

By Rachel Essel

When I studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia, the only way for me to get around besides walking was public transportation. If you’re not familiar with St. Petersburg’s geography, the city consists mostly of two main islands and sections of mainland and I lived on one of the islands with my host family. Due to the nearest metro stop to me being closed for remodeling, I had to take mostly buses and trams everywhere which made things a lot more complicated.

The first day of school my host mom actually took me there, and we left while it was still dark out to get on a tram, to go to the next closest metro stop to meet my fellow students where a bus would take us the rest of the way to school. It was so confusing and took so long and then my host mom drops this bomb on me: I won’t actually be taking that route to school, that was just to meet at the correct metro stop the first day. So at the end of the day my host mom takes me out to where I will catch a bus that will take me all the way to school the next morning.

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