It’s spring time as I write this, and students and teachers alike are thinking about the break and upcoming vacations. If you’re an international student, this particular time in the year, or any other vacation time, comes with its own challenges. We’ve previously covered what to do if you are staying in a dorm, or if you are staying at home while your host family goes on vacation. In both situations, you are depending on a level of self-reliance. Relative to those, going on vacation with your host family seems like a walk in the park.
However, if you’ve ever been on a vacation with your own family, you know that this isn’t always the case. Families cherish their time together, but going on a vacation brings with it its own stresses and tensions. Going on a trip with your host family, whether for just a weekend or an entire week, can be a rewarding, fun, and bond-forging experience. Keeping a few things in mind can ensure that everyone comes back rested, happy, and even closer than before.
Offer to pay your portion
In the previous article, we talked about financial discussion regarding vacations, so this may very well have been settled in advance. If not though, make sure you ask about it. You don’t want to already be on the road and then find out you are expected to contribute. No matter what, though, it is probably a good idea to offer to pay for your meals or lodging. You may be familiar with your situation, and what is expected, but it’s important to make sure you don’t allow your host family to feel like you take their hospitality for granted. Accepting, and even embracing, your responsibilities, is an important part of personal development, and a critical aspect of your study abroad experience.
That said, you should certainly plan out with your host family what you will be responsible for covering. They won’t consciously try to make you pay more than you can afford, but it is important to get ahead of things so there isn’t any misunderstanding down the line. As with so many things, communication is key.
Participate in the activities
In the history of family vacations, there has literally never been a single one in which everyone agreed on every event. Some people want to go to the pool, some want to go see nature, some want to drag everyone to the creepy/awesome museum– there is going to be disagreement on what to do. It is the inevitable group dynamic of human nature, even if all members share DNA.
So in disputes, make your opinion known, but be sure to go along with whatever final decision is made. They will take your opinion into account, and probably go out of their way to accommodate you since you will most likely have not seen anything on the list, but parents have to make sure everyone is happy, or at the very least minimize disappointment. As a relative outsider, so to speak, you can help them in that by participating in things cheerfully, even if it may not be your first choice. That shouldn’t be hard- you are here to try new things and see new sites, so try to remain open to anything. You might find your new favorite museum.
Take everything in
Here’s the thing about taking a family trip while studying abroad: you’re going somewhere you’ve never been. Maybe the family goes to the Maine coast and the Acadia state park every year, and maybe the other kids are bored with it. However, it is new to you. You have a chance at an amazing experience, no matter where you are.
The heart of vacationing is travel, seeing new things, having new experiences, and also working on your interpersonal skills outside of your comfort zone. What else does that sound like? Exactly: it sounds like studying abroad. A vacation is your international trip, only heightened. You have a chance to get to know your host family better, to get to know yourself better, and to see more of America than would have been possible on your own. Participating in a family vacation could end up being one of the most important parts of your study abroad experience.
The international student experience is both challenging and exciting. Whether you are a student considering studying in America, their parent, the host family, the Head of School, an international coordinator, or even a potential classmate, there are as many opportunities for confusion as there are to learn. The ISPA is here to help bridge that gap, to ensure that this opportunity and adventure is met with the highest level of success.