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​Forming a Far… Far… Far Away Family

​Forming a Far… Far… Far Away Family

One of the best things about studying abroad is getting to interact with different cultures. I can’t think of a better way to do that than living with a host family. The thought of living with a host family can be overwhelming. You may not speak their language well, the food could be very different, and the cultural norms may be different than the United States. All of the above are true for me. Spanish is not my first language, the food is different than the food in the US, and I do not understand parts of their culture. Because of this, I had many questions about living with a host family. After living with my host family for four weeks, I can definitely say this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The following are important things I have learned from living with my familia tica (Spanish for host family).

All of the families, that students are currently living with in Costa Rica, have hosted students before. Because of this, my host family generally knows what I need help with, what is different for me, and what my academics are like. This has made the process of adjusting to a new family easier for me. Even if a student is a family’s first student–that is awesome too! It is important to know that all host families are evaluated and screened. Before any student lives with a host family, the staff of the study site (for Costa Rica the staff are Heidi and Alfonso) will interview the family and look at their home. They make sure the family is capable of housing a student. More than that, all of the host families here love hosting students! They love building new cross-cultural relationships.

I was very nervous about my family placement, but I ended up loving my family. My family and I both like music, Disney movies, are involved in the Christian church, and like to spend time simply hanging out. No matter what family a student is placed in, they will find common interests. This is a great way to start making connections.

My host sisters (Chiara and Maria Celeste) and I playing together!

As a United Statesian, I grew up believing in the power of my own independence.   This idea of independence was one of the first differences I noticed between the culture of the US and the culture of Costa Rica. People from Costa Rica (known here as ticos) function as a collective culture. Their families and friends are one of the most important things in their life. If someone in their family needs help, they will do everything to help them. I experienced this first hand. Last week, I was pretty sick. I couldn’t go to class and spent a lot of the day in the bathroom. My host mom (Maria) checked on me frequently, and she advocated for me when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to the doctor. She constantly worried about my wellbeing. This kind of love in seen through out familial life in Costa Rica.

Spending quality time with our host moms!

This idea of family accompaniment is a new concept for me. Yes, families in the United States are close, but it is different here. Family is the central part of Costa Rican life. I am not just a student living with a family. My host family has completely brought me into their family. Everyday when I come home from school I get greeted with many hugs, giggles, and smiles. My mom always says (in Spanish), “It’s so good to have my daughter back home.” It has been a true blessing to be a part of a my Costa Rican family. I can’t wait to spend more time with them!

Kyra and I eating fruit and ice cream with our host siblings


19 February 2018


Hannah Purkey