So before meeting your host family and probably for the first few weeks or even months, you think/I thought “This is the perfect family, I’ll never need to change families!” However for many students they will end up changing families at least once! So here’s the process, well at least what I experienced…
In my host family: host mom, 2 brothers and 1 sister
If the family you’re with has kicked you out then you can skip to The Super Scary Easy Part because you don’t have to do anything accept move within the next few days 🙃 However if you’re the one asking to move, depending on your volunteer and situation it could take a short time or a while… In my situation I told my volunteer what was happening but I only talked about the big problem at the time (1st month of exchange) my volunteer wanted to first see if the situation could be resolved instead of moving me right away. I tried telling the person directly about my problem with them, it changed nothing. This ended up to my volunteer coming to the house (2nd month) and talking to my host mom about the problem. After that, everything felt awkward for me 😖 … The problem did stop but the relationships between me and the people in the family had changed. On top of that, as more time went by other problems started. The family did not serve dinner or it was a piece of bread and they also stayed in their rooms a lot with their doors closed. The lights were often turned off by 7:00pm because nobody was out of their rooms. A small problem was parts of the house was gross to me 😷 There was often old food (bread, cheese, butter, sausage) left in random places of the house, and their pets were not healthy. The next two months was spent me trying to tell my volunteer about things. I felt my volunteer turned the problem around to possibly being my fault saying that I’m not trying hard enough and it’s probably because of what I’m doing that they don’t act a certain way. my volunteer told me I have to try solving the issues myself.
Attempt To Resolve Issue By Yourself “The family does not change to you” I completely understand this and believe in most situations you’re supposed to change to your family, the culture and try to resolve matters by yourself first. Since my volunteer said I probably wasn’t trying hard enough, I tried sitting out in the living room without my technology waiting for someone to come out. I thought about the possibility of asking them to come out of their room but it didn’t feel like my place to tell them to leave/change what they’re doing because they’re happy with what they’re doing. Even if someone came out of their room they only did it for a brief second to do whatever they came out to do then back into their room with the door closed. The fact that dinner was not being served was also something I didn’t want to go and say “Hey, make me food” because that was telling them to change their way of living because I was there. So to change to the family basically meant, don’t talk about it.
Thats a thing I was confused about 🤔 I was told change yourself to the family and to tell the family to do what you want. If I said nothing, my volunteer would say, they can’t fix the problem if you don’t talk. If I said something, it would turn into I was not trying hard enough.
AFS said they’d start looking for a new family (3rd month) but sadly they do not have a bank of families and they’re also trying to keep you in the same area.
The Way I Finally Got To Change Families I GOT KICKED OUT! 😭😝 A few days before the AFS trip to Bocas Del Toro (that I was barely allowed to go on before the deadline) I told my volunteer that my money was disappearing. One day I went to check my money, the $40 I had in there was gone. A few days later I went to the bank for the money to pay for the Bocas trip $200 for trip and $100 for food/spending. The next day I spent the day out with friends, when I got home and checked my money, $60 was gone! I know for sure I did not accidentally spend that money 💸💸💸
I got home from Bocas and got a message from my AFS Coordinator saying I was moving the next day because my volunteer told my family about the money and that made them really mad. I did not plan on telling my family about the money because I knew that would be offensive if I asked. I was hoping when I left the family they’d not hate me, apperently they really liked hosting me until my volunteer talked about the money… However overall I’m glad I get to leave, so now the most awkward next few hours of my life.
Finally Leaving The leaving part is not always awkward for every student, even if you’re the one asking to leave. However since my host mom was mad at me she did not talk to me at all. I didn’t mention earlier, my family was not home when I got home from Bocas so when they did arrive, nothing was said. As usual no dinner😒 The next morning my volunteer came and picked me up, I said thank you for letting me stay in your house and that was all that was really said…
A good thing about my first family is they made me really like school, it was part of my day where I didn’t sit bored and had people to talk to.
The Super Scary Easy Part I should mention, I had two temporary families before I finally got my permanent family. Since AFS was given such short notice that I was being kicked out, they had to find someone to host fast. Moving in is easy and the same for a temporary and permanent family, you already have experience from when you first came to Panama and your Spanish is improved. The goodbyes with your temporary family(s) are sadder then your first family, you can guess why. Sadly AFS could not find a family in the same province so I had to move 5 hours away from David Chiriqui —> Chitre Herrera, leaving my friends and school 😢
Settling In Again Depending on the person you are, this part could be really exciting, you’re meeting a lot of new people and maybe re connecting with other exchange students. The part I’m most excited for is starting a new school ✏️📚 Meeting new people is really fun for me + school gives me something to do in the day.
A Thing I’ve Learned Understandably, AFS is more lenient to the family. I think because once a student has left a family there’s a good chance they won’t host again, whereas the student will keep going through the exchange. The student is also supposed to be changing to the family and it is hard for a lot of students. It also makes more work for AFS if they have to move you, so they don’t want to move every student with a complaint.
A little frustrated that it took so long to change families but now it is all resolved I can move forward looking to happier experiences 😊
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