Initially, when I decided to study abroad one of my biggest concerns was the unknown of a host family. The program said we would get our housing assignments about two weeks before our program date. I did get the information as promised, but the information was an address, the host family’s last name, and a picture of the inside common room – thus it did very little to quell my concerns.
My flight arrived at 5 am and I was immediately transported to my host home. The program director dropped me off and said she would see me the next day… and that was it. My host family lived in a lovely house with lots of flowers and cacti. We immediately went to the kitchen to get breakfast and introduce ourselves. My host family had been hosting students for almost 20 years and clearly had their system perfected. We talked about life and preferences and I apologized for my lack of vocabulary to talk about certain topics. Though wonderfully accommodating, they didn’t speak any English and this made for a lot of describing words I didn’t know. We made it work, though. After breakfast I slept until late afternoon and came back out of my room.
Rudy, my host brother, is an orthodontist in Cusco and he took me to visit his practice that evening. I talked to the mother of his patient and then we went with his colleagues to a new restaurant. It immediately made me feel more at home as he was so open to talk and discuss his town and his life and had lots of questions for me.
As time progressed, I learned to love my host family more and more. I met their grandchildren and brothers and sisters and learned so much during meals. They were so kind and thoughtful and went out of their way to do things to help me. Rudy proof-read my papers for class and we talked about feminism and social problems in the U.S. and in Peru: topics I am passionate about but never expected to find in conversation with my host family. I had one on one conversations with every member and they were always so giving and thoughtful.
The very last week I had many final exams and was trying to check-off all of the places I hadn’t managed to see yet and for this reason, I didn’t see my host family as much. They would text me asking if I wanted a bag lunch or if I wanted them to save food for me for dinner. I was just so incredibly surprised at how above-and-beyond they went for me. There was also a solar eclipse towards the end of the program, and my host family had all of their granddaughters and their granddaughters’ friends over for an ‘Eclipse Party’. I had spent lots of time playing with these girls throughout my time in Cusco and so I wasn’t too surprised by the knocks on my door and screaming telling me to come party. We had pizza and ate on the roof and watched the stars and moon. After all of the dance parties and after-school games, they felt like little sisters, and I will miss them dearly.
On my very last day I was beginning to feel the sadness set in. I spent almost all day with my host family, just soaking in their loving environment. I promised to write and send pictures and return some day. When the taxi came to take me to the airport I stood outside hugging everyone for as long as I could and everyone had tears in their eyes. I am still astonished that I connected so well with them and I can’t believe I was ever worried. Their home truly made my study abroad experience what it was and I can highly recommend it to anyone studying abroad.