One of the biggest highlights of my summer in Almaty has been my host mom. It is just my host mom, her orange tabby cat, and me. I was excited about my placement because knowing my preferred study methods, I knew that being with just her would get me to open up a lot quicker. Even so, when I first arrived I was only saying one word: «Да.»
She is an energetic woman who had hosted students before, so she already knew the drill. She knew exactly how to goad me out of my fear, how to get me to open up to her. And I did. I adapted rather quickly to her, started talking more little by little. It still took me a while to lose that fear of talking due to my mistakes, but by halfway I was talking more, regardless of my mistakes. What helped was when her nephew visited and I gained the confidence to talk to him about myself, mistakes and all.
My time spent here has felt eternal, but in reality, it is only a summer and I have really learned so much even when I have my days where I feel I have learned nothing and know nothing. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions being here, sometimes feeling proud of my progress and other times feeling depressed that I cannot compare to the others around me.
However, my host mom has been a rock for me here without her even realizing it. We have a routine and as she has told me stories throughout these six weeks so far, I have learned so much about her and have also learned to talk more about my own life in ways I never had before in classes back in America.
Another great thing about her has been her cooking. Trying new foods can either be exciting or scary, a hit or miss, but my host mom is such a great cook that I have not struggled with the food here once and it has helped when there was the possibility of getting food poisoning at one point or another was present. But instead I have felt spoiled in terms of her cooking, enjoying the majority of the meals.
I have not felt the need to stay out every day, trying to avoid a bad or uncomfortable living situation. Instead I enjoy staying home all day when I do not have classes and just talking with my host mom since after classes I would usually be too busy with homework. She has been such a comforting presence that I will definitely miss when I return home. This was my first host family living situation and it has really been a great experience. At first, I was a bit nervous – as were my parents – about living with a native since I had been used to living in apartments or dorms by myself. But instead it has been wonderful and could not thank her more for taking me in.
By: Erika Campos
Program: Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Term: Summer 2019