The Best Part of Studying Abroad

Studying abroad and living with a host family was extremely nerve-racking. I felt uncomfortable at the thought of living in a house with complete strangers who may or may not speak English. Luckily prior to leaving the United States, I received a letter from my host family describing who they are and their interests. Having this little bit of information helped calm my nerves a little because they didn’t feel so much like strangers after reading their letter. I wanted to make a great first impression on my host family so I tried to find small gifts to show my appreciation for welcoming me into their home. I based what to get each person off the letter of information about them I received.

When I first arrived to their house my nerves were in over drive luckily when the door opened every single family member was there to greet me. Everyone had a huge smile on their face and helped me in the house with my luggage. They gave me a tour and showed me how everything operates as well as told me about the family rules. One thing that relieved a lot of the nerves I had was that the last rule was “you’re a part of this family. Please make yourself at home, let us know if you need anything or if we can help in any way”. Having house rules did make me feel like part of the family.

I debated giving them the gifts I bought them the night I got there but I waited because it was extremely later when I arrived and I wanted to get everything out of my suitcase and make it look presentable. Another reason I didn’t hand my family their gifts is because we all sat at a table and got to know each other and shared information about ourselves. For me this was a bonding opportunity/ experience with my host family and I wasn’t going to give that up on the first night.

On the 2nd day my host family could see I was a little nervous still and made an extra effort to try to include me in everything. Looking back on it now, I am extremely grateful for the efforts they put forward to include me because I became closer and closer each day with my host family as a result.

When I reached the midpoint of my program and I felt more settled in the house and with my family I decided to give them the gifts I got them. Seeing the look on everyone’s face when they opened up their gifts is something I’ll never forget. I got my host sisters necklaces, my host dad a gnome because he loves gardening and my host mom a New York City skyline apron because she loves to cook. My host mom had the biggest smile on her face and was twirling in the mirror with the apron on. My host sisters teared up when they saw their necklaces and one wore theirs to their college graduation. My host dad thought the gnome looked like him and fell in love with the gnome’s charm. He now has it in his garden and told me he will keep it forever.

By giving small gifts it helped me say thank you for being such great hosts but it also helped me feel more like a family member. I would also make efforts to help out around the house by doing the dishes and sweeping. I think my host family appreciated that and as a result it left more time for them to teach me about the Georgian culture. They taught me how to make some traditional Georgian food, some Georgian phrases as well as some dances.

Through these experiences we shared many laughs and formed closer bonds. The relationships I made with my family I know will last me a life time. I now consider them not only family but lifelong friends who I hope will visit me in the states. My host sister already asked me to come back to Georgia and be a bridesmaid for her wedding.

I am beyond thankful and honored to have been placed with such an amazing host family. They made my experience what it was. As my program is ending I’m struggling to come to terms with saying goodbye to them but it will never be a true goodbye but, a see you later because I will return to visit in the future.

By: Alyssa Frickmann

Program: Peace & Security in the South Caucasus

Term: Summer 2018

 

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