This is for the newer hosts, like myself, who are just starting to feel their way around hosting international students, while they are settling into homestay. Just be practical & patient and remember the first four weeks are the hardest, when students are feeling homesick, missing family friends and what they are used to. Unfortunately students can feel quite ruffled no matter how welcoming & supportive you are, just give them time to adjust.
Resistance to Change…
My first student was very difficult, not willing to try anything, not willing to come to the supermarket to show me what she likes, ultra-resistant. Her demeanor pleasant, but looking back she was very resistant to any change. Naturally I was worrying that she wasn’t eating enough, and I went to all lengths to try to accommodate. By the fourth week I decided it was her problem not mine, continued to support and encourage, but stopped worrying about her food choices, just gave her the best I could and let her decide it she ate it, or not.
Well what a turn around. She is now eating practically anything I give her, the long lists of her dislikes are a thing of the past and she in fact eats most things that were on her dislike list, and enjoys them! She has told me that she just didn’t want to try at the beginning, and she laughs about how silly it was. She has told me she likes most of the Australian food now and for the most part, when she said she didn’t like things she hadn’t even tried them.
We now talk about many things, how she felt at the beginning while settling into homestay, how she adjusted to university & new friends and how she is now really enjoying herself. I think the new friends also helped with her comparing & trying new things.
My student won’t be staying for long as she is 18 and wants to live in share accommodation with friends when they arrive from China, and that’s fine, but at least she has settled in happily is now very friendly. The experience has been extremely positive and a great learning curve. It certainly helps with understanding the process and allowing settling time for future students without the worry I had at the beginning, re: her food issues.
The Adjustment Period…
They just need time to adjust and a caring supportive host to get them through it. Patience & understanding gets you through, and remembering that the beginning can be very daunting for them and no doubt some settle in quicker than others. I’m so pleased I didn’t give up on her, as she is really very lovely and you wouldn’t know it’s the same girl who arrived at the beginning. She just needed time.
The first few weeks she was so difficult to communicate with, now she sends me texts throughout the day with little red hearts attached. It’s been a very rewarding journey and certainly I have learnt a lot from it and will not be stressing with my next student, like I did at the beginning of my first one. Just give them time to adjust and be kind, and in time I believe most will settle in once they accept & get used to their new environment.
Be Fair To Yourself…
Lastly, be fair to yourself also. I’m the first to admit within the first three weeks while she was settling into homestay, which felt like three months, I was ready to throw the towel in and say ” Never again” this is a nightmare but I was determined to get it right and I’m so glad I did. Its turned out just fine and all the effort was worth it. You wouldn’t even know now that there were ever any issues.
I think it would be very easy to get your back up and feel angry towards their initial behavior but just remember it’s when they are at their worst, that’s when they most need someone understanding and patient towards what they are going through themselves. It’s the most difficult time but staying calm, not taking their behavior personally, will get you through. Happy to say I hung in there as the experience has been a great learning curve and we are now both enjoying each other’s company.
Robyn – Adelaide