The Pros And Cons Of Participating In A Homestay Program

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The Pros And Cons Of Participating In A Homestay Program

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In February of this year, I was given the privilege  to participate in a homestay program where I would not only travel to live with a native Japanese family for a week but I would also get to sightsee in various areas across the main island of Japan, Honshu. While I was there I stayed with a family of four in the small town of Ichikawa located in the Hyogo Prefecture (A prefecture in a sense is sort of like the Japanese equivalent of a state in America. These prefectures of course are much smaller than the 50 states we have in America and there are only 47 prefectures in Japan). In no way is the facts I state a clear representation of Japan or of every homestay experience.  In no way do my opinions represent the whole of Japan, they are merely an account of my own personal and limited experience.

Pros:

  • Learning Common Tongue and Slang: One of the perks of doing a homestay was getting to improve my speaking ability and learning common words and phrases that aren’t necessarily being taught in class. One of the most fascinating things I learned was that the word for no or いいえ (literal spelling in English iie) was not commonly said in Japan. Instead, most Japanese people would say ない (nai) which is a shortened version of じゃない (jyanai) and simply means “is not”. In the process of worrying too much about the language barrier and not being able to speak Japanese well, I had completely ignored the fact that there were various dialogs and common slang integrated within the Japanese language.
  • Being Forced Out Of Your Comfort Zone: To all the people i’ve talked to, being in a new country for the first couple days is nerve-wracking (in the context of doing a homestay or being unable to speak fluently) and to be totally honest, I have to agree. While being in Japan, my senses were constantly being stimulated by everything new around me. to Finding something that I was used to seeing back in America, besides of course my friends/fellow classmates who had joined me on this trip, was almost nearly impossible . In this kind of setting, the most important advice I can give anyone is to have an open mind and just try anything that your given the opportunity to try.  In my opinion, if you try something new it will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
  • Visiting Ancient History: Although I have never be inclined to take an AP History class, one of my passions has always been to learn about history. As a history nerd, I was captivated and awestruck by the many objects such as buildings, castles, scrolls, ornate decorations and more which were several hundred years old. Japan is an amazing country to visit if you want to view objects and structures that have lived through many eras. Even if you aren’t necessarily into history, I think there are things that everyone should see at at least once because it is truly an unforgettable experience to be in the presence of something that been through so many changes and has been gazed upon by thousands of people.
  • Gaining A Family Outside Of Home: I think one of the most unexpected gifts I gained was the deep connection I felt with my host family. When I signed up to be a part of this homestay program, I wasn’t expecting that in a single week I would become more close to people I had never met before than people I had known for years. I believe that even though being a tourist is great, I would much rather do a homestay because you get to learn about the culture and language from the perspective of native Japanese people.  In return, you gain a deeper connection with the local community. I am really grateful that I was able have this connection with my host family.
    It makes me push myself harder to become a more fluent speaker.

Cons:

  • Limited Contact With The U.S.: When it came down to contacting my family back in America, I decided to cut off all contact with them for a week due to two reasons; money and time difference. When I say money, I essentially mean that if I was to call or text my family while I was overseas I would receive a hefty fee for making international calls . I don’t think anybody wants to spend a lot of money on calls. There are apps that can be downloaded such as WhatsApp or Line which will allow you to make international calls for free. Due to technical difficulties, my phone wouldn’t allow for me to use those apps. Secondly, I mention time difference because where I was staying there was a 16 hour time difference which made contacting my family difficult. If I was to contact my family during their normal daytime schedule, I would have to either stay up late or get up early. With both money and the time difference a significant factor, cutting off contact with my family was the best option. You can always use email.
  • Homesick Of American Food: I’m sure many people who have traveled abroad can relate to the feeling of being homesick. When it came to feeling homesick, I only missed a couple things because everything I was experiencing so much nicer than the things back home in America. Out of all the things I could be homesick about, it was sleeping beside my dog at night and the food back in America. Being brutally honest, the food over in Japan was so delicious that I have to force myself not to think about it because I know i’m not going to Japan any time soon.  One problem with the food over in Japan was that it was so different compared to the food in America that my digestive system wasn’t used to it. I can recount my host family asking me if I was okay while eating dinner on my second day in Japan. While my family had ordered 30 plates of sushi,I had only ordered two (if you’ve ever eaten conveyor belt sushi you know that that’s practically nothing). Even though the food was delicious, I couldn’t help wanting to throw up because it did not agree with my stomach ache. My advice is if you go to another country, bring stomach ache supplements, they really do help.
  • Language Barrier: Lastly, the most obvious con is the language barrier. hen I went to Japan,  I did not speak fluent Japanese (in fact I am only in my second year of taking Japanese) so communicating with my family in Japanese wasn’t exactly an easy task. I often would often get too excited and start ranting in English,  which made no sense to my family. Over the course of the trip, I realized that listening very carefully and making hand motions is the best way to understand and communicate with them. One of the most important things about going to another country is being open to making mistakes when speaking so that you can learn from those mistakes from the input of a native speaker.

 

There are always going to be pros and cons when it comes to traveling and living in a new country but that doesn’t mean the country isn’t worth visiting. As they say “nothing is perfect”, but despite the cons, I believe that if given the opportunity you should participate in a homestay program. The experiences I faced were truly something I will never forget and in fact I was devastated to have to come back to America. Nonetheless, I believe that the wonderful memories I was given will change me and help me to push myself forward so that eventually I can going back to that spectacular country and being reunited with my host family.