|Volume 15, Issue 8||
Finding My Home (Far) Away From Home
|Caitlyn and her French "brother."|
I admit, when I first arrived, I could hardly understand what my host family was saying to me, despite three years of preparation. My first encounter was an embarrassment. My host brother asked me something that sounded like, “Do you have a phone?” in French. There was an awkward pause as I responded by pointing to my phone and the native French speakers stared at each other in confusion. They tried to ask the question again in halting English, “You are… ‘ungry?” I felt like I could melt into the sidewalk after I realized the miscommunication. I felt lost and crazy to assume that I could ever do this.
I’m glad I remember feeling completely overwhelmed because it makes me feel extremely proud to realize how much I progressed. I conquered the mountain of scary interactions and the complexities of another language. I learned how to communicate with my whole body, miming actions when I could, using my facial expressions, and most importantly, I was not afraid to ask questions.
My host family was amazingly accommodating. They acted as a true family and we bonded through support and a sense of humor. Beyond any other member of my amazing host family was my host brother. He was always willing to lend me a helping hand and a smiling face. We would stay up into the night taking about anything and everything from family to the future, from school classes to sexuality. I learned not just the language but also the culture.
From my homestay I learned that certain things are universal. Things like laughter, joy, and gratitude that come from simple things like sharing a meal together or from running around the backyard in a water fight with my siblings. The connections to my host family are real, strong, and one of the best things about my trip. It is because of them that I gained courage in myself.
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