Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Best Advice You Could Ever Get About Dealing With A Bad Host Family


The excitement of being in a foreign land was all the rave. Spending twelve plus hours on a plane to see some of the Chinese cities from the air was a milestone. Finally, flying over the border of Russia and China, I could see the finish line. Beijing was close.

Sleep deprivation. It’s real and it can mess with your mind. I remember only bits and pieces of the two hours after exiting the plane. I remember being fingerprinted and finding my luggage (the last of all the luggage to come out).

The taxi driver waved my roommate and me down and transported us to our hotel. I remember struggling with figuring how to keep the lights on in the hotel room and taking a shower in the dark. I remember looking out the hotel window thinking about how beautiful Beijing was at night and falling on the bed. The next thing I knew was that the sun was up, and my adventure had truly started as this day was the day I was meeting my host family.

My roommate and I were separated after a short conference and welcome with the non-profit I went through (CHI). I knew I was going to get along with my host family before I arrived, and everything was confirmed the minute I left the elevator in the apartment complex. My host sister, Dora, was waiting and immediately gave me a hug the second I stepped out of the elevator. The month we spent together was the best and we continue to message each other waiting for the day I return to China this summer.

My roommate had a different experience with her host family. Everything started off fine. About ten days into our thirty-three-day trip, I got a desperate text message. Things weren’t working out and I worked with the non-profit to find a solution. The situation was taken care off and my roommate and I enjoyed the rest of our trip.

How can my roommate and I have such a different experience? There was another World Explorer who was in Beijing at the same time. This World Explorer also had a different experience. What determines if a host family is a right match?

What Can Happen

My host mom and sister :)
Everything depends on the host family. My host parents aren't married but have a strong love for each other. Their daughter is loved and spoiled rotten as she is an only child. I was a welcomed guest who could take some of the weight off my host mom’s back and be a playmate/tutor for Dora. Also, my host family considers themselves “non-traditional”. This allowed me to share my culture freely without a risk of offending anyone. Conversations freely bounced off the walls in the apartment every night. I could truly learn about the Chinese culture and share my culture.

My roommate's host family was distant. My roommate lived with a host mom and dad that were rarely around because they worked long hours and the kids had free rain of the house most days. One of the kids was in the United States for the first fifteen days but returned and quickly transitioned to a boarding school three days after returning to China. The youngest boy was left at home with the maid. Once my roommate entered the home, some conflicts arose. The maid believed my roommate was encroaching in her territory. Cleaning and cooking meals are the maid’s job, not my roommate’s job. With the language barrier and the unwillingness of some members of the family to communicate with my roommate, she felt lost and alone. A power struggle started without my roommate even noticing and she found herself alienated.

The other World Explorer lived in a household quite different from my roommates and mine. The other World Explorer, Kaylee, lived with a host family that has an absentee father. There was an instance when the father returned, and a fight broke out. The young boy, who Kaylee was working with, struggled when his parents fought. The separation was recent, as Kaylee’s host mom had separated from her husband one month before she arrived. I could see the stress weighing down Kaylee’s host mom when I visited. Yet, she always had a smile on her face. Because of this situation, Kaylee was the one taking care of her host brother. Her host brother basically has free-reign of the house and could do what he wanted. This was sometimes a struggle for Kaylee when she needed to work with her host brother and tutor him in conversational English.

Family Traditions and Children

Children. You love them, or you love them. They bring smiles to faces and it amazing to watch them grow into independent adults. As a World Explorer, my roommate, Kaylee, and I worked with Chinese children between the ages of five and eleven-years-old. The hardest things to understand as an American was that Chinese children are different from American children.

Many Chinese children are the only child in the family as to the two-child policy has only been in effect since 2016. These children are spoiled by their relatives, especially their grandparents. The grandparents play an important role in the family as they usually pick the child up from school and stay with the child until the parents return from work.

This is something my roommate had to deal with. Her host brother, who was four at the time, was spoiled. Whenever he didn’t get his way, he would throw a tantrum and in response, his mother would buy him a toy or a treat. My roommate was at a loss. How was she supposed to help her host brother in English if he didn’t sit down? What was she to do if her host brother hit her?

This isn’t necessarily a common issue. I didn’t have this problem. Dora is respectful. In the International Elementary School, I went to with Dora had some students who acted like my roommate’s host brother. The language barrier was the hardest thing to get over as some frustration came from our inability to understand what was being said.

How To Deal With It

There are many things Kaylee and I tried with my roommate. This included contacting the non-profit to find a solution (possibly changing the host family), getting out of the house, interacting with other people, and keeping the mind occupied.

Every day of the weekday, Kaylee, my roommate, and I ventured out into Beijing and saw tourist sites, got lost and met the locals, tasted the street food, and ventured down many Hutongs. We all had our first experiences in public transportation and figuring out how to get back home when the signs were in Chinese.

As time went by, my roommate and I got language buddies who shared their culture and translated for us. My language buddy, Ethan, is now studying in the United States as an accounting student. Kaylee and I plan on visiting him around Christmas.

Even on the weekends, my roommate and I met up to see new areas of Beijing. A couple of times, without trying, we met up at local areas like the Beijing Zoo (where I met Kaylee and her host family), The Beijinger (the burger festival), and the local mall.

I remained in contact with my roommate every day by text, even when I saw her. My roommate got along well with the neighbors and a local elderly couple who were more than happy to entertain her. The elderly couple and my roommate got along so well that she bought a small gift for them before she left.

There are always going to be some situations that make us uncomfortable. It’s important to remember that everything is going to be OK. Us World Explorers had support 24/7 and the non-profit was with us every step of the way. If a host family doesn’t pan out, there is always an option to change the host family. My host mom told me that she had hosted a sixteen-year-old three years ago who had left her original host family because of some time constraints. My host mom was welcoming and made sure to help the sixteen-year-old have the best experience in Beijing.



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