A hard thing about being an exchange student who lives in a homestay is striking a balance between leaving the house to do things and spending time at home with your host family.
On the one hand, there are so many things to do in the city and you just want to leave the house and explore. But if you just come home for meals and sleeping, your family takes on a different role in your life. It starts becoming like a relationship where they just serve you food and provide housing–which is a situation that neither the exchange student nor the host family wants to be in.
I definitely lucked out with having a family whose schedule fits mine. During weekdays, the house is usually empty until maybe 7:30 or 8 at night because my host dad works, my host sister is at school in Casablanca, my host brother has his internship, and my host mom is either at her mother’s house or going to Quran reading classes at the mosque. I usually set a time of 8:30 for when I should be home because that’s when most of the family members are at home. For the whole afternoon, I am free to do whatever I want without feeling like I am missing time with my host family.
However, I’ve also struggled with feeling like I’m not spending enough time with my host family. Fatiha and I have our daily dinners where we talk about life for an hour, but then after dinner, she and our host dad go directly to sleep while I am on my laptop doing work that I didn’t do during the day. Breakfast is difficult because it’s so early, so Fatiha usually leaves food out for me and then goes back to bed—and because I have a bad habit of setting my alarm at 7:25. I basically get dressed and ready in 5 minutes and eat breakfast in 10 minutes so I can leave the house at 7:40. Everything is rushed and the schedule I made for myself in the mornings kind of encourages that.
But. Sundays!! Sometimes they’re my favorite day of the week. People don’t work on Sunday, they sleep in, and life is just pushed back a few hours. The streets are empty in the mornings. I’ve told myself that I won’t plan anything complicated for myself on Sunday, and just follow the relaxed schedule that my host family follows. I eat with them, whenever they are ready to eat. I tell myself that I will stay at home. It doesn’t matter if I talk to anyone or not, or if anyone wants to talk to me, because it’s important to be just in their presence. Sunday is the only day where breakfast takes more than an hour because we all know that nobody is (usually) going anywhere.
For a lot of my life, I’ve had a relatively American (??) perspective on time. Or maybe it’s just me. I just always want to fill up my time with something active, and if I’m sitting around, I feel like I’m wasting time. But in a homestay, sometimes it’s better to not have everything planned out, and fit your own schedule to your host family instead of the other way around.
I have made a compromise. During weekdays and on Saturday, I am free to do whatever I want; my host family has a busy schedule on those days too. But Sunday is family time and relaxation time for my host family. So that is what I am doing too. Your host family shouldn’t be expected to conform to your personal schedule; you should try hard to conform to theirs.
It’s Sunday morning (specifically 10:47 AM) and I’m excited for the lazy day at home that’s ahead of me :). I haven’t had breakfast yet (typical Sundays) but afterwards I’m going to go to the gym, come back, work on Global Citizen midterms, learn some Arabic, work on planning on my capstone project, do homework for my community-college online English class, read, and have a day of relaxed meals with my host family ❤
Even though I’m not going anywhere today, I’ll still be busy. Excited!