In Costa Rica, I live with an eight year old sister. I also live with her 15 year brother, their mom, and her mom (my “official” Mama Tica). On any given day, there are up to 4 different visitors hanging around the house, and two other students besides me. For someone who comes from a pretty small, private family, this was a bit of an adjustment. I’ve learned to love them, though, over the course of my time here with these simple tricks:
- Spend Time with your Family Do you remember the first day of college? It was crazy overwhelming, and you probably met at least a hundred people. That’s kind of how meeting a host family feels: mildly overwhelming. By spending time with my 8 year old sister and asking how her day is, or by helping my Mama Tica in the kitchen, I have learned more about them and gained respect and love for them.
- Be Flexible If you are used to living by yourself or doing things for yourself, this may be challenging. You now live with a family that feeds 8 and only does laundry one day a week. Try to step outside your comfort zone a little and try new foods at dinner, and be flexible with things like sharing a bathroom and not doing laundry on your own schedule. Sometimes, it’s okay to take a break from homework and play Monopoly with your family.
- Communicate On the flip side of what I said above, if something is difficult, speak up! If you don’t like the papaya at breakfast, ask if you can mix it up. If you need an extra blanket at night, don’t be afraid to ask! They are probably going to be more accommodating than you can imagine!
- Embrace the Culture This is probably my favorite tip included. I love that my family spends time lingering over coffee after we finish eating breakfast in the morning, and that we greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. By trying to embrace the culture, we can get more out of the trip.