The GoGlobal Blog

International Homestay Observations

International Homestay Observations

Kia ora, Namaste, Aloha, Hola, Hello!

This post is more informative and will cover the dynamics you may possibly experience within your study abroad community if you choose to live in a home-stay. I was pretty real in this post, and I did so in order to be candid and not sugar coat anything for the reader seeking information. I didn’t really look at any blogs before coming here (I probably should have), but I’m sure my situation is not unique to me. I’m sorry for the length (again). A “Too Long; Didn’t Read” (TL;DR) sentence-long summary of this post is at the bottom, and I think I’ll keep that a habit with my entries as I just like to type. 

Now, I’m no weirder than the next person, and my host-mom has confirmed this happening to her other “homestayers” in the past, so I know it’s not just me.

Homestayers, don’t expect to be BFFs with your study abroad crew staying in the university apartments. In a worst case scenario, expect to be ostracized by at least half of your group. You have chosen to be completely submersed in the country of your choice. It can be terrifying and invigorating at the same time. You’re not in a little village of apartments with around half of your direct study abroad crew and other international students feeling the same things as you. You’re a part of an actual real-life family, and if yours is/will be anything like mine, you will feel loved and accepted by these absolutely wonderful people. Very in-depth research is done by these study abroad professionals to ensure that you truly are paired with the best family possible. IES does a really fantastic job of this. Thus, you may not be informed of your homestay assignment until about 5 days before you’re set to leave (instead of the 2-3 weeks that the IES website says).

At least with the IES Auckland program, the first weekend you’re here, you go to a Marae, which is a sacred Maori (native peoples) meeting house. You participate in different outdoor activities, and get a basic understanding of Maori cultural practices and values. Plus, it’s a bonding experience for you and the other students in your direct IES program. They do a great job, you learn and bond together, create a Facebook page, and friend all of the people in your program because you genuinely think that you’re all friends, now. 

Along with that Facebook page, your peers will probably create a group text (via text message, GroupMe, etc.) within their own little separate apartment communities to plan outings and whatnot. But remember in elementary school when you were planning or invited to a birthday party, and your parents taught you not to talk to everyone about it because maybe not everyone was invited? Well, it’s good advice, and these apartment folks may not follow it.

Outings will still be planned on the Facebook group, and, hey, take advantage of it! I just went to the Waitomo Black Water Rafting Cave tour (Program I did: to see the cave’s glow worms with some of my direct IES group memebers, and it was awesome! However, the dynamic of the group had changed. Before, when we were all out at the Marae, anyone could strike up a really nice conversation with anyone.

Now, not so much. If you try to strike up a conversation, maybe the other person will only give very short answers, or perhaps they try their best to have the shortest conversation with you and walk away. Confusing and disheartening, to say the least. Do they not like you because you’re not in the apartments? Do they just feel awkward around you, now? It’s only been about 2 weeks since our bonding experience. However, there are still some very lovely people in the group who will talk to you first, and you’ll still have good conversations with them.

Well, this is an opportunity to step even further outside your comfort zone, my friend. Join some clubs to meet more Kiwis. I’m going to the next Tramping (Hiking) Club and Canoe Club meetings to mingle with other university students. Also, there are socializing apps (Tinder, Primate [an exclusively NZ, platonic friends app], etc.) that allow you to meet people in your area. Just be smart about it. I’ve already met a pretty incredible Kiwi off one of those apps, and it’s only Tuesday of my third week here. Meeting locals can seem intimidating because, if you’re anything like me, you don’t want to seem like the out-of-place dumb American. Well, fun fact, you’re not. And there’s no reason to lose hope. 

If I had an appropriate opportunity to ask some of these folks what’s up, I would because that’s just who I am. Though, it is a matter of picking your battles and using my social energy wisely. Shit happens, and you can’t let anyone get you down. You are a damn lovely person with that amazing thing that makes you YOU! Plus, you’re in an amazing country with so many opportunities at your feet.  This is your experience, and you get out of it what you put into it. 

With Love and A Bit Less Sweat,

TL;DR: Staying in a homestay may make your other study abroad peers not talk to you anymore, but who gives a damn because you’re here to be submersed in the local cultural goings-on, anyway. (Word count: 960. I’m so sorry.)

12247767_10205653848413302_365924241761731370_o 12772009_10205653835172971_8481170900826781665_o 12794773_10205653840733110_1298478217621026662_o 12841308_10205653855613482_361173877516219345_o 12832405_926648744108655_2755804111624509241_n <–Some Waitomo Cave pics



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