One of my biggest fears when thinking about studying abroad was living with a host family.
What if I don’t get along with them? What if there is too big of a language barrier? What if they have an incompatible lifestyle from me?
But after spending a little over a month with my host family in Tbilisi, Georgia, I can honestly say that living with a host family is one of the best parts of studying abroad—and not just because they provide free meals.
My host family immediately made me feel welcome in their home. I have my own room where I am free to go whenever I need to do homework or spend time alone. I was fed, which was very necessary after travelling for about 24 hours and not having a normal meal schedule. I was allowed to sleep for much of the day to adjust to the time zone change. And at night, I watched Zootopia in Russian with my host family.
I regularly got to watch movies like Thor in Russian, which makes learning Russian a little more enjoyable when it’s in the form of some great movies.
One of my host sisters showed me an app where I can check the bus routes and times so that I know when to leave for the bus stop. Her help eased my anxiety about navigating Tbilisi when I cannot speak Georgian. When I was sitting on the bus, I knew exactly where I was going and when to get off. Because of my host sister, there were no issues with me getting to class or anywhere else necessary in Tbilisi.
During my first week in Tbilisi, my other host sister took me to see Toy Story 4 and the Funicular. It was beautiful looking down at the city all lit up at night, and this was a great bonding opportunity for us to talk about our lives and experiences.
Every morning, my host mom makes me breakfast—even if it’s super early like 5 a.m. when I needed to catch an early train to Batumi. I was concerned that I wouldn’t like any of the food my host family would give me, but I really love almost all of it and I was comfortable telling my host family if there was something I did not like.
I often end my day sitting with my host family at the kitchen table, eating watermelon, and talking about our lives. Sometimes we talk about what we did that day, sometimes we compare Georgia to the United States. It’s always an interesting conversation and something I look forward to each night.
My favorite experience with my host family was my personal cooking class. My host mom and sister taught me how to make ajarian khachapuri and khinkali. While these foods are always delicious, they taste even better when you get to make them yourself (or with the help of your host family).
These foods look fairly simple to make, but actually take a lot of skill and practice. It is not easy learning how to make your khachapuri bread into the perfect boat shape to fit cheese, an egg, and butter or how to fold your khinkali neatly without the meat inside falling out.
I’m excited to show my family and friends in the United States what they are missing because no one I know has eaten Georgian food before. My host mom makes such amazing food, I will miss that so much when I move back into college.
Also, small things they do like always having watermelon, cucumber, and other healthy snacks available is something I want to carry on to my life back in the United States. I’m the first to admit that I do not necessarily eat very healthy, so it will be good to start off with small changes that I’m already accustomed to after living with a host family.
When I leave Georgia soon, I will miss my host family a lot. They really feel like my family. I feel at home here. I trust them. I will definitely come back to Georgia in the future and plan on spending time with my host family. They have done so much for me, and I cannot thank them enough because they made this study abroad trip enjoyable and an easy adjustment.
By: Callie Anderson
Program: Peace & Security in the South Caucasus, Tbilisi, Georgia
Term: Summer 2019