by Jes Stayton, Greenheart Travel High School Abroad participant
At the end of October, (Wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long. ) I switched host families for the first time. Although when people think of exchange programs, they usually imagine only one host family, but having several different host families is fairly common, especially in Japan.
Japan is a very expensive country to live in, so adding one extra person can cost a lot of money. This year, because of the bad economy, (which has affected Japan as badly or worse than it did America) finding people willing to take in an extra person for ten months is really difficult. In fact, out of all the exchange students I’ve met, only one has had one host family for the full period of the exchange. By the time I return to America, I will have had four host families, and will have lived with each family for about two and a half months.
Although when reading it, two months sounds like a short time, but it actually feels quite long in real life. You get used to your new house and family fairly quickly, and after that it just becomes home. The first few days before and after you switch host families, however is a little strange.
Before I switched from my first host family to my current one, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about moving. My first host family was very nice, but very strict as well. They were also completely different from my family in America, which made it difficult for me to know what to do. I wasn’t sure whether to look forward to it or feel sad. On top of that, everyone else acted very cheerful about it. They kept mentioning the fact that my next (now current) host family’s house is only a ten minute walk to school. That is covenient, but I actually sort of enjoyed the hour and a half commute to and from school. It was a nice time to think.
JFIE (CCI’s partner program in Japan) had arranged for a moving company to take my luggage to my new host family, which was very smart of them. I packed a lot of things into two huge suitcases to bring to Japan, so it would have been very inconvenient to put in the trunk of a car. (I packed so much, in fact, that it’s only a matter of time before I overcome my embarressment and start shipping things home. A hint to future exchange students: no formal dresses.) The only downside was that I had to take out some neccessities for the two days while my stuff was being moved. On the day I switched, I went to school as usual, bringing everything I had needed for the two day interim with me. That afternoon, instead of going home as usual, I met my new host family outside the school office and went home with them.
The first few days with my new host family, I felt really strange. It felt like when I used to go to visit my cousins. It wasn’t like being at a hotel, but it felt like a trip all the same. The fact that I was still going to the same school everyday only increased the oddness. (Although I will have four host families, my school stays the same throughout the exchange program. ) Everything about the new host family was different; the house, the customs, and especially the people. I went from living in a very traditional house with one sibling to a modern style house with three siblings. At my first host family, everyone returned fairly late; at my new host family there was almost always someone at home. I’ve got used to it by now, but I still remember how strange and unreal it felt. I guess the reason the move to my current host family especially felt strange is because I wasn’t expecting it. The first few days with my first host family were strange as well, but I was expecting it to be different. When you travel to another country, it isn’t as surprising when things are different there. I would have been a little disapointed if my host family’s house had looked just like my home in America.