If you are going abroad and will live with a host family before, you should know that it is nice to bring gifts to whomever you plan to stay with. However, this rule can also be extended to whomever is going to be helping you a lot when you are abroad. For example, I had what is called a Danish Visiting Family, which was a family that
helped me a lot when I was abroad, and I would hang out with them and cook meals with them at least once a week, but I did not live with them. Even if you are just going to live with a roommate or two, it is polite to bring them a gift.
If you are having any trouble figuring out gifts to bring, here are some ideas:
- Celestial Seasonings tea gift basket (this is what I brought my visiting family, but since Celestial Seasonings is become accessible in so many places, make sure that you are not going somewhere where it is easy to buy. Denver or Boulder tote bags (or tote bags from wherever you live) BBQ sauce (at least in Denmark, everyone seemed to think that BBQ just meant grilling and nobody had any concept of BBQ sauce, so when my parents came to visit I had them bring some BBQ sauce to give to my visiting family)
- Baseball caps or sports jerseys from wherever you are from.
- Food mixes. For whatever reason a lot of people from other countries seem intrigued by all of our brownie mixes and pancake mixes (or perhaps are just interested in the convenience of it). Other food mixes like mixes for bean soup or anything like that would also make good gifts—especially if they are locally made.
- Chocolate. Especially if you can get chocolate or candy from a local factory.You can rarely go wrong with getting chocolate, but just make sure that it is wrapped up well so that nothing melts in your suitcase!
- Locally made soaps or perfumes. This gift is of course better for women.
- Native American crafts or jewelry.
- Any other food item that is special to where you live such as salt water taffy if you are from the coast.
- Any other non food item such as clothing or jewelry or decorations that is somehow representative of where you are from also makes a good gift.
And always bring photos of yourself, your family, your friends, and where you live (including postcards)! It is nice to be able to show your family where you live!
*Blogger’s note: Think ahead- you may be placed with a family with small children, grandparents, extended family members, and people not listed on your housing assignment. Bring a few extra little items just in case. Postcards are easy, cheap, and a great way to share a bit of your home with your host family!
-Rosa Calabrese, DU Study Abroad Peer Advisor
Many of you go abroad to gain independence and escape the safety bubble of your community and university. Friends, family and familiar scenery is replaced with strange smells, food, people and a family that you may or may not be able to communicate with. All of this is exciting, driving you to do and experience more.
All that being said, I’m sure you first time homestayers are a bit apprehensive about the prospects of living under the roof of parental surrogates and how that will influence your extracurricular activities. Rest assured, your homestay families are not there to keep you prisoner. They are there for guidance and support and might even welcome the idea of you taking in the night life.
However, in order to ensure that your nocturnal activities do not create an unhealthy relationship between you and your host family, there are four rules I recommend you follow.
- Enter quietly: A night on the town leaves one tired and sometimes confused. In addition, how is one supposed to navigate the intricate system of locks and gates in the middle of the night? Make sure to hone your skills during daylight hours so as not to become a nuisance to your family should you enter the house before sunrise.
- Tell your family where you are going: No longer are the days when you gave limited information to your parents in an attempt at damage control from something you did or will do. Your host families will be genuinely interested in what is happening with young people in their country, not to mention your safety. Be honest, let them know where you are going and doing, they might even let you know of some good places to go.
- Whatever you do, don’t raid the fridge: Many are partial to a late night snack after spending the night dancing, chatting and mingling with all the new and interesting people. If this is the case, make sure to take a snack with you or eat before you come home. Banging around dishes in the kitchen in the middle of the night is sure to wake up even the deepest of sleepers. Besides, who wants to be the one that eats that special cultural dish that your family was saving for a later date?
- Don’t invite friends over to spend the night without prior approval: Two can cause more trouble than one. Bringing others back to your homestay without prior approval is a sure way to do something that your family might not approve of.
If you follow these four rules, I guarantee there will be no ill will between you and your homestay family. The next lesson will be what to say to your homestay family when you come home at 2 am to find a giant rat drinking out of the dog bowl. True story.
– Pablo Hester, DUSA Peer Advisor