Switching Host Families

Isabelle C. is currently a junior at SYA China and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Iolani School in Hawaii.

The people who I spend the most time with in China is my host family. Every evening when I come home, I eat dinner with my host mom and dad. They’re there everyday I wake up in the morning, and my host mom cooks me a fresh breakfast in the morning. It’s important that you like and get along with your host family well. They’re going to be a huge part of your life in Beijing. You’ll learn and practice a lot of the Chinese that you learn with them. However, sometimes living with a host family doesn’t work out the first time. This is my experience switching host families.

My first host family was alright. I had a little sister who I was and still am very close with, and I got along well with the rest of my family. However, my host grandfather’s ankle had issues, and since he did a lot of the taking care of the family because my host parents worked late, things got hectic at my old home. My relationship with my prior host mom was a bit tense. My prior host mom put tons of emphasis on me teaching her daughter English. This was pretty much grounds for moving, but I stuck around because I wanted to try giving them a second chance, what they asked me to do was relatively insignificant. I also wanted to see what effect teaching my host sister English had on my relationship with the mom. Long story short, things didn’t get any better and I decided to switch.

Although switching host families isn’t common, there are usually a few students that do it each year. Who you live with and whether you feel comfortable and happy with them is one of the most integral parts of your experience in China. SYA student-family matches are usually first time perfect. SYA also offers an excellent support system if anything feels wrong. I honestly would not have made the right decision to switch if the teachers and counselors at SYA hadn’t helped me make the choice. My original host family were first timers at hosting SYA students, so they obviously had different or were unaware of the expectations for host families. With my current host family, I feel like I have a real family. My host mom and dad take such good care of me and they treat me as if I’m their biological child. On my first day at their house, my host dad told me that the most important thing to them now was making sure I’m happy.

Switching host families is never easy, and as my Resident Director said, you can never quantify your decision to switch easily just using logic. If you ever face a situation where you feel as if it would be better to switch, I would tell you to trust your gut and be confident in how you feel. Not everything is going to go perfectly in China, and I actually ended up growing and learning a lot about who I am and what I need from this experience. I wouldn’t change a thing.

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