Study Abroad – Take 2

15 Jul

Here are some more of my thoughts on the subject of studying abroad, especially home stays and photos.

3. Home stays can be great and they can be terrible – it’s a 50/50 chance. I had a home stay for the first 4-5 months I was in Spain. Unfortunately, my home stay mother was extremely unpleasant and outright rude and my program wasn’t willing to relocate me. She was probably late 70s to 80s and I was 19 so we didn’t exactly have a lot to talk about.  We rarely saw each other (thank God!) except during meal times during which she would politely ignore me or more likely, complain about every little detail. She once dragged me out of bed in order to yell at me that the toilet roll was facing the wrong direction, I’m serious here. Of course that was a few weeks before her attempt at killing me, she never really explained how fish bones got into my bowl of potato soup.  :-/  Anyway, I’m a fan of getting back up on the horse so this, while making me more wary about the next time ’round, has not turned me against home stays entirely. But watching and listening to my friends in the same program complain about home stays, reading about other people’s experiences via blogs, and knowing a lot of people studying abroad, I have become aware of one thing: home stays are a crap shoot. Most of them turn out fine with just the occasional annoyance or really great occurrence, some turn out horrible and scar you for life, and some are absolutely amazing and leave you with friends for life.  From what I’ve learned, if you want to do a home stay, try getting one where there are kids of a similar age, or even younger if you like kids.  The same thing goes for if you want to live in an apartment; try renting one with a few roommates from the host country so you can practice your language skills. Personally, I wouldn’t suggest getting an apartment to yourself because you’re already isolated from living in a foreign country.  Living alone will most likely make you feel more alone and depressed, but of course, each person is different and some people may thrive that way.

4. Your slide shows are not that interesting. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure your pictures are wonderful and creative and whatnot. But here’s the thing: the people you want to show them to weren’t there. They don’t understand why the photo of you with the horse is hilarious or why that one of a fountain in Italy makes you smile.  Most people want to see a few photos of recognizably interesting things.  Your really close friends, parents, etc. will be willing to sit through your two hour slideshow and at least feign interest; everyone else will most likely get bored out of their minds.  This is one thing not usually mentioned in reverse culture shock articles. When you come back you’re going to be freaking bubbly, you’re going to want to tell everyone how wonderful your stay was and what great friends you met, you’re going to want to relive every moment by looking at the mountain of photos on your computer.  Unfortunately, while you were away everyone else was still here, back at home, they didn’t experience what you did, the things that make you so excited are of momentary interest to them.  I suggest you do everyone a favor and pick out a few of your favorite pictures (5-10 minutes worth) and put them into a slide show so you can show them off. I do suggest that you have explanations or descriptions of what you’re showing people as this will make them more interested in reliving it with you. “And this is a pretty building in Nice” is NOT a decent description and you will bore your audience to tears very quickly.  On the other hand, this indifference on the part of your acquaintances should not be considered a reason for you not to take a ton of photos while you’re abroad.  Believe me, you will want to look back at those photos again and again when you return home so take lots!

That’s all I’ve got for today. I think I’ll take a short break from my study abroad advice and finally get around to posting about Rome and Prague tomorrow.  Ciao.

2 Responses to “Study Abroad – Take 2”

  1. uk student Wednesday, 16 July 2008 at 6:00 am #

    I agree that your home stay experience could be varied but it is important to ask loads of questions of the school if you can. I believe that part of the experience is what you make of it too. You talk about a bad experience “scaring you for life”, but I prefer to see it as what doesn’t kill me makes stronger!

  2. Michelle Wednesday, 16 July 2008 at 7:27 am #

    That’s a good way to look at it, but I don’t think a student really needs the added stress that a poor home stay causes. Usually living and studying abroad is enough to make them stronger and more confident in themselves. Personally, I think a lot of international programs don’t do enough to screen their home stay participants. My program made it clear that I was not to make a fuss and just go along with whatever my home stay mother wanted because she had “been with [them] for years”. I found it much easier to just live with people my own age who spoke the local language. We had much more in common so we talked to each other more and I had greater freedom to do as I pleased.

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