You’ll most likely agree with us that homestay is an important part of the overall learning experience. But you’re REALLY wondering whether it’s something for you.
To give you a better idea – an inside view – we have asked some students to tell you about their homestay experience.
Cultural Encounter of the Close Kind: Students Speak Out on Homestay Experiences
Before coming to Costa Rica, I had never lived, for an extended period of time, with a family other than my own. Knowing how difficult everyday living can be with my “real” family, I was a bit wary of the adventure. However, because my goal in coming to ILISA was to truly experience Latin American culture and to learn as much Spanish as possible, I realized that it would be foolish to not take advantage of the homestay option.
When I arrived in Costa Rica, I knew how to say “No hablo español” and not a whole lot more! I remember thinking on the plane, “How bizarre! A stranger that is going to be my ‘mother’ for 8 weeks is about to pick me up at the airport, and I have no idea how to communicate with this woman.”
With a bit of hesitation, I walked out of the San José airport to find my “Tico parents” holding up a sign with my name on it. Phew! I had found my family. The next challenge…I wanted to be able to talk with them. We didn’t discuss world affairs, but I was able to tell them where I live and that I was happy to be in Costa Rica. I was able to understand that my host mother would ride the bus to ILISA with me for my first day of school. How exciting! I hadn’t been taken to school in about 20 years!
Little by little, as my vocabulary grew and my ability to speak increased, we were able to converse over more interesting topics. Whenever I needed help with my homework, they were always very eager to help, and never laughed at my very “gringa” accent! One night, when I came home so excited about a dance class I had attended that afternoon with ILISA, (a must-do afternoon activity), my Tico father even pushed aside the dinner table to work on some basic salsa and merengue steps with me!
Living with my Tico family allowed me to observe the many cultural differences between Costa Ricans and Americans. I was able to taste foods previously unknown to me, I ate plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits and also indulged on the delicious Costa Rican coffee. My family taught me a lot, and I in turn, taught them a great deal about “everyday” life in the U.S. I definitely gained a new appreciation and level of acceptance for other cultures.
No matter where my travels, studies and work take me, I am certain that I will always remember my family’s help and patience during my visit to Costa Rica.
Written by Susan Lanter who studied at ILISA in June and July 1996.
Comments from homestay evaluation forms
I made my reservations…at the very last minute, but you still managed to get me a wonderful family who exceeded my expectations.
The food! I wish I could take Damaris (my host mom) home with me – not just because she made me feel welcome and comfortable, but also because her cooking is fantastic! I am a vegetarian and here I’ve eaten better food in greater variety than I ever do at home.
This family is so happy and loving–they will serve as a role model for me. Coming from New York City it is hard for me to believe a family could be so warm towards a stranger.
The family is very thoughtful. They are anxious to make me comfortable. They accept me and my questions. I feel that they are old friends.
They encourage my growth in Spanish and in knowledge of the culture and speak with me frankly about the differences. I am delighted to be with them.
Excerpts from an unsolicited letter
Just wanted to make sure ILISA knows how much I’ve enjoyed the homestay. I’m staying with Rita Rodriguez and family and have enjoyed and appreciated every minute….
There is always activity in the home – with friend & relatives visiting and the day to day activities of an extended family. I have been included in everything and the more that goes on the richer I feel my cultural experience is.
I could not be happier with the entire experience. The family is great!