Home Schooling: Students on foreign language trips learn about their home stay families
Published: Monday, May 21, 2012 - 3:33pm
One of the most unique things about Uni's foreign language program is that students have an opportunity to go abroad and practice the language that they study, or see the important cultural icons they learn about in class.
This summer, students in the Spanish, German, French, and Latin classes are planning to go on three- week trips to Europe where they will be able to fully experience the culture of Spain, Germany, France, and Italy, respectively. A summer trip to Japan is not in the works for this year because of the teaching change as well as several other reasons, according to French teacher Lynda Lopez.
A large part of each language trip will be the one-week family stay in which each student stays with a designated host family. Family stays help students grasp the everyday aspects of culture in foreign countries that they might miss during the rest of their trip. The students also give their host families a sense of American life. To prepare for this exciting experience, host families introduce themselves to their students via e-mail, Facebook, or mail.
Sophomore Brigitte Dietz is going on the German trip, and while awaiting a message from her host family, she received a mysterious friend request on facebook. According to Dietz, “My host sister’s next door neighbor friended me on Facebook and told me to friend my host sister.”
Sophomore Izzy Fitzpatrick is going on the French trip and she received “a very exciting email about how [my host sister] is very excited for me to come, she was very nice and exuberant. It [ the email] was in French and English, [in other words] Franglish.”
While most students have been contacted by their host families, the Latin students have not yet heard from theirs.
As of May 17, the Latin home-stay is up in the air due to a misunderstanding between Language & Friendship, the organization through which the French-Italy trip is being planned, and the party in contact with the prospective families. Now the Latin students have heard that they will most likely stay in a Roman convent for the eight scheduled home-stay days, and view the sights together.
Once contact between the student and their host family is established, students are encouraged to maintain a steady line of communication with a member of their host family, typically a teenager who is around their own age. Facebook seems to be the most popular way among students to stay in touch with their host siblings.
Sophomore Sam LeRoy was contacted by his host brother over spring break. Since then he has stayed in contact with his host brother and exchanges emails "once or twice a week." LeRoy says that since he has a Facebook account now, communication could be more frequent and expedient.
Fitzpatrick and her host sister communicate regularly via Facebook. According to her, “exclamation points are key. Show that you’re not afraid to embarrass yourself and that you’re super excited to meet them. Yeah, just be like “Hi!” and sign with ‘XOXOXO, Love ya!’ That’s what me and my host sister do.”
Staying with another family for a whole week means that students must be flexible and cooperative. A few students are already making preparations for how they will handle things like dietary restrictions and medical needs.
Larson, whose accommodations are still uncertain, is trying to prepare as well as she can for her stay. Larson is vegetarian and, due to certain medical conditions, cannot eat most dairy products.
“I’m bringing lots of lactate pills,” she says, “I’m also bringing a lot of food that I can eat, like CLIFF bars and stuff like that, just in case.
"The biggest concern for me," LeRoy said, "is smoke, but with a doctor's note I was able to send it in and request that I wasn't [placed] with a family that smokes." Being Jewish, Sam says "I'll try to keep kosher when I can, but when I can't I'm not going to make them change their ways."
Fortunately students will not be completely on their own during the their home stays. Language teachers will be nearby in case of emergency and the students are typically assigned to families in the same town or area.
“I’m staying in an area [where a lot of students will be staying], my nextdoor neighbor has a host student, and the person down the street has a host student, so I have lots of friends around me,” says Dietz.
Speaking with host family members is one way that students are preparing for their three weeks of immersion into a foreign culture.
LeRoy can't wait.
" Hopefully [I'll be able to] go to school, do some water sports, just go in town hang around with his friends, cook a little bit... do as many things as possible. ... I'm going to go in with as open a mind as possible towards the French way of life," he said.