Staying in a host family whose language and culture are different from yours can be challenging. Similarly, your guests also feel apprehensive about having to share their personal space with strangers for a week, not to mention the daunting task of speaking in English all the times; on top of that a host knows they have to be entertaining their partners. This can be emotionally draining unless you have the right attitude and the right expectations.
We asked our students on the first day in Bulgaria what their worries were. Below is a summary of what 60 students from Bulgaria, Sweden, Spain and Italy shared. Of course, there were a couple who had no fears but they were in the minority and this is only natural. It is good to bear these in mind and design appropriate activities to alleviate these anxieties.
“I may not be able to make friends.”
“I have to speak English for a whole week.”
“I will have to draw at the cocktail.”
“Someone might get sick and miss the opportunity to enjoy their time here.”
“We may not achieve what we have planned.”
Talking to new people
Extremely tired at the end of the week
“We may not be able to get ready on time in the morning because I am always late.”
“I am not nervous at all.”
The presentation at the beginning
Not knowing what to say
The Swedish cultural evening
Speaking in Bulgarian
Speaking in public
“People may not like me.”
Not coming off well
“I may have misunderstandings with my partner.”
“I may say something wrong in English”
“That our guests will be hungry.”
The ppt presentation
If my partner will have a good time.
“I will cry when I go back home.”
“I won’t be happy about the experience.”
If my partner will like the visit to Bulgaria.
“I will be very sad when my partners leave Bulgaria.”
Trying new food
“No worries, we are great, we’ll do it!”
Forget some words in English and not knowing how to communicate
Speaking loud enough in public
“I’ll get sick – am already!”
We will be revisiting these as the project develops. One thing we encouraged the students to do is keep diaries/journals. We will summarize their entries in the following weeks. By all means, the most effective means to deal with anxiety is being busy; reflecting on your experiences also helps. We will share our activities and own reflections in another blog post.