When learning that I had a host family, I was overwhelmed with happiness and with nerves. I have heard both the horror and hollywood stories. However, I knew that it was happening no matter what and that my one goal was to make the best of it and gain cultural insight.
The above pictures are from our host family reassignmentAll underage participants in these photos have been given permission by a parent/guardian
The most nerve-wracking part was that we weren’t given our placements until our first morning in Amman. This meant that we would get to the hotel late and spend our whole night and morning dreaming about where we were placed. Following the afternoon of orientation, it was finally time.
I saw who was our previous host mother standing there with two little boys nearby and thought to myself “I hope they’re my host brothers”. Being far from home and missing my two brothers was difficult and having kids in the house would feel like home. When our names were called and I saw who she was, I was so excited because they WERE my host brothers (I may or may not be psychic).
The first and probably most important rule for living with a host family is to be open, honest, and respectful at the same time. It is important that you are comfortable and that they are as well so be sure to tell them if you don’t like something or if you need something. It’s super common to keep things like this to yourself but they are like family now and they want to do all they can to make you feel at home, so open up!
We learned that in Arab culture people are very open and talkative, so if you are not used to a dynamic like this it may be difficult at first. I was so happy to see this because my family is the same way. So, it may be the case that personal boundaries in conversation may be crossed. Nonetheless, only answer what you feel comfortable answering.
Miscommunication is immensely common as a result of language barriers. I was lucky to be placed in a home where both English and Arabic are spoken, but Arabic was still their most comfortable language and obviously mine was not. However, the point is to make mistakes and practice because being immersed will teach you more than any class.
Luckily, in the program you are placed with another student. So, together you can practice your Arabic and have each other for support. It definitely makes things easier and more comfortable. Especially being a woman in Jordan where you shouldn’t necessarily be on your own when exploring, travelling etc.
We established with our family that we didn’t have enough experience to talk in depth about many things. Therefore, we came up with the agreement that we would teach them english while they would teach us Arabic–A perfect compromise.
The second rule is to be courteous. When on the program you will have a curfew and will also be required to tell your family when you leave and when you will return, this way they will not worry and know that you are safe. This can also be difficult, especially if you are used to controlling your own schedule and going out when you please. However, these are the rules for your family, for your safety, and are part of your contract as a student at AMIDEAST.
There is so much to love about having a host family. The amazing food, the fun songs and dancing, learning about their family and lives, taking adorable pictures, going out, and just forming a bond. I know when I leave I am going to miss them but also will keep in touch. Living in a suite, hotel, or apartment would not have done anything for me, a host family is truly a unique and amazing experience.
If you are afraid and considering other living situations please trust me and so many other people that you will never experience anything like it! There will be pros and cons to everything, but the pros outweigh the cons and if for some reason you do or are studying abroad with a host family and are unsafe, uncomfortable, or want to change something, please please please reach out to your program coordinator and they will help you so you can be your best self.
A host family will never replace your family, but they are the next best thing. So much warmth and happiness radiates throughout the home i’m staying in and it will stay with me forever.
After writing this post a few weeks ago, another student and I came to the conclusion that our host family was treating us unfairly and not abiding by their host-family contract.
This included asking us to pay for food which they were given money to do, having older men (other than the host father) stay in the home with women students, leaving the residence to another part of the country without notifying AMIDEAST etc.
With all of these things in mind, we decided that relocation would allow for us to have the best experience. Although it was awkward, leaving was the best decision we ever made. We assumed that all families in Jordan were like that of our first host family and we were very wrong. Our first host family gave us a negative impression of Jordan and the culture and in leaving we were given the true experience of Jordanian love and hospitality.
Sometimes advocating for yourself is very difficult and can be uncomfortable but it is necessary to make sure that you are given an experience without being taken advantage of.