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Is the Homestay Right For Me?

It sounds intimidating, right? Staying in a stranger’s home, eating meals with a family you’ve never met, trying to speak to the people in your new home in a language you might not know well. While the homestay comes with its own set of challenges, many students find their homestay to be one the most rewarding and memorable parts of their DukeEngage experience.

We asked some recent DukeEngage participants to share their perspective and answer some questions about their homestay experiences:

Liz Corrao – Durban, South Africa

Katie Herrman – Peru

Katy Grant – Peru

Audrey Wang – Guatemala SEC

Owen Zighelboim – Durban, South Africa

We also found some great blog posts about homestay experiences. Scroll down for links.

“My host family did so much more than keep me safe, well-fed, and comfortable during my two months in Durban. There were difficult days at my partner organization, where some of what I heard and witnessed took an emotional toll on me personally.I looked forward to ending each day at the dinner table with Helen and Norman.”

Liz Corrao

“I like to think of John as my long-lost South African grandpa. John was very approachable, which made it easy to feel comfortable opening up to him. I was surprised to learn how curious and interested he was in my own life. From day one, we developed a surprising familiarity with each other, which I suppose was a product of not only our compatible personalities but also our routines.”

Owen Zighelboim

“I went to several birthday parties with [my host family] and even a wedding.  We would drive into the countryside and into different towns, go out to eat salchipapas (typical Peruvian food of hotdogs with fries), go to the park, and watch movies at home with homemade popcorn.”

Katy Herrman

“My host family took me to family get-togethers for birthdays as well as into the center of Cusco to go see the many religious parades and holidays that were celebrated during the summer months which were an absolute blast.”

Katy Grant

“I remember going to church with my host mom for the first time, and really grasping the intimacy of the community. I watched her sing with the choir and was introduced to people that she had known since childhood. Doing this without any other Duke students really allowed me to feel immersed in the community and part of Helen’s family.”

Liz Corrao

“My host sister (one of the adult children) took me to the local beauty pageant. Another memorable moment was hosting a big birthday party for my host mom’s1-year-old grandchild.”

Audrey Wang

“Dinner, playing with kids or sitting by my host mom’s bed and listen to her stories. Sometimes I would opt for a little alone time to read/journal.”

Audrey Wang

“We both got home at roughly the same time and spent the rest of the day watching TV and eating dinner. See, John liked to eat – the man could stomach more food than anyone I know. After we became comfortable with each other, he would challenge me to eat these enormous quantities of food. I’m talking curry burritos a foot and a half long or sandwiches the size of a puppy.”

Owen Zighelboim

“The most challenging part at first was getting over the communication barrier. Once we were able to communicate better, it was so much easier to get closer to my host family on a personal level and create a truly familial-like connection with them.”

Katy Grant

“I had never really thought about how hard it would be to say goodbye to my host parents until about a week before my departure. It’s pretty surreal leaving people who feel so much like family with no idea when or if you’ll see them again. Minutes before the van pulled up to take me to the airport, Helen and I had an emotional last talk about the gratitude we shared for having been a part of each other’s lives. It was incredibly difficult to hug her goodbye.”

Liz Corrao

“I think the biggest thing they taught me was that people connect on many different levels. I loved them so much and could express and have a super-deep connection with them all even in my second language. Sometimes it’s not about what you’re actually saying and just the time spent together.”

Katie Herrman

“They taught me about Peruvian culture and society and also how to laugh at myself even when I’m pushed out of my comfort zone and make mistakes. I learned personally that who I consider family does not necessarily stem from blood relations but rather the value and strength of the loyal, loving connections I have in my life.”

Katy Grant

“I reevaluated the way I interact with my family and other people around me, to live more in the present.”

Audrey Wang

We really got a change to discuss the social and political forces at play in the community and how they affected people’s families and careers. A huge portion of what I learned about South Africa was a result of feeling accepted into the Miller family, and I would not have wanted it any other way.”

Liz Corrao

“Communication with my family was key.  They made me feel really comfortable from the beginning and it was easy to talk to them if I was having any issues.  I made sure to take some alone time for myself to process the work I was doing, which gave me more energy to give to family time and being present at meal times, etc.”

Katie Herrman

“If I could go back I would 100% choose living with a host family again because the wonderful bonds I created with my family are so critical to my DukeEngage experience that I cannot even imagine my 10 weeks without them.”

Katy Grant

“My host family literally made my experience.  I fell in love with Peru because of them.  I keep in very regular contact with them now, just talking about life and updating them on what I’m doing and I really couldn’t imagine not having them as a second family because I feel like they really know me well.”

Katie Herrman