The Monteverde Cloud Forest of Costa Rica is home to the section of the gap year when students live in homestays. That is, independent living with a local family while exploring their culture and experiencing an apprenticeship in a particular skill during our trimester 1 ISPs. During my ten-day long homestay with a family of four, a happily married couple with both a son and a daughter, I decided to take the opportunity to interview them in order to better understand their role in our journey, as well as my own in theirs. The interview (originally in broken Spanish via Google Translate but translated and tweaked to better suit English) is as follows:
Q: Why did you decide to start hosting travel abroad students?
A: Our family has actually been hosting students for almost 17 years. We have seen many types come and go, all participating in or working toward something new. It has always been a pleasure to meet people from new places as we don’t get to travel very much. It lets us learn more about the places they come from, and we enjoy teaching them about our home. We keep a photo album of all of the people we’ve hosted, and we enjoy adding to it.
At this point, we took a photo to add to the album and she showed me her past students.
Q: Have you ever had any problems with someone you’ve hosted?
A: Coming to a new place is a tough adjustment for many at first, especially when they don’t speak the language (this entire interview was conducted through Google Translate), so there are instances where we have had to ask our visitors to not to act a certain way so as to avoid trouble, however we are generally pretty open and accepting, and allow our visitors to be as independent as they please.
I can certainly vouch for this, staying with the family was a pleasure. They had very few rules and allowed me to do mostly anything I wanted. There was a lot of respect between us and it made for a very enjoyable stay.
Q: How much do you know about Winterline and what we’re doing on our journey?
A: Very little, we were asked to provide a home for international students and that was about it. Of course, we said yes, but we would like to know more.
This made for good conversation; them not knowing too much allowed me to break the tension easily and tell them all about the amazing program Winterline has put together. They were very excited to learn more about a program they had never encountered.
Q: Would you ever hope for or allow your children to stay with a family abroad?
A: I think it would be a good opportunity, but I would never feel safe letting my children travel like that. I’m a mother first and foremost, always worrying. Maybe someday if the opportunity arises, we will talk about it.
My ISP during this time was learning to cook, so I asked this question on a whim:
Q: How would you like it if I cooked dinner one night?
A: Oh no, I don’t like anyone else to work in my kitchen. I appreciate the gesture, but let me take care of things like that.
She held true to this, always anticipating and accommodating every one of my needs without me even asking. A very lovely woman and mother to get to know, and I am grateful for everything she has done for me.
This interview was especially difficult to complete, as Google Translate is not a reliable means of communication in another language. It was enough to get the point across, but I feel as though myself and my host family missed the full scope of each other’s responses. The interview may have been more fleshed out had I spoken Spanish, or they English, but on the flipside I feel as though this was a very valuable outcome for myself as well as for future students who can now take these shortcomings into consideration. I’m glad it went the way it did, and learning about my host family brought us closer together and made my stay that much more enjoyable!