Picking a homestay has certain rewards and certain drawbacks when compared with dorm accommodations, and each become increasingly apparent over the course of the semester. Starting with the positives, having a host family to come home to every night does a great job of helping you forget homesickness. Every now and then when I’m walking to school or I’m given time to just be still and reflect, I become incredibly aware of the fact that nothing around me is necessarily familiar, and at times that can make me miss my home, my parents, my dog, and, in general, my country. My host family creates an environment that I can at least pretend is the environment I grew up in. Sure, the language is different, but my host siblings constantly want to play, and I can rely on my host mother every night to have dinner waiting for me on the table.
My host family also provides me with the opportunity to practice Japanese and listen to Japanese with incredible frequency. Living in the same house as Japanese speakers gives me a much greater opportunity to use my language skills and gain many new ones when compared to students living in dorms. Because language acquisition is the ultimate reason I came to Japan, this is incredibly important. However, I still miss out on certain aspects of Japan that dorm students get to have.
Students in dorms tend to go out and explore more because they have no obligations to a family waiting on them back home. When they want to go out, they do. As a homestay student, that can be discouraging at times. Seeing people go out and have fun is difficult when you are asked to stay back and babysit your six year old host brother. However, keeping things in perspective, in 99% of the cases, making a six year old’s day and playing with him will be more rewarding than going to see a monument that will be there forever or going to an arcade that exists to take your money. Still, such an aspect of freedom can sometimes be lost on homestay students, especially those with young siblings like me.
Ultimately, the choice between a homestay and dorms comes down to what you want to get out of your experience in another country. Homestay families can provide lifelong friends that you can always come back to. Believe me, I’ve actually come in contact with host students my family has had in the past, one of whom met his wife, and now mother to his four month old child, through my host mother. On the other hand, a dorm can provide you with freedom to do whatever and go wherever you want, which isn’t ever a bad thing when you’re in a foreign place that most people would kill to be in!
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Hi all! My name is Ben Krieger, and I am a rising Junior at Miami University in Oxford, OH. I grew up in the Cleveland area as an aspiring professional football player, but clearly that is a path that I've abandoned because I'll be in Japan during my first season away from the game in fourteen years! I'm very excited to be in Tokyo for the fall, and I've been preparing to be able to at least survive in Tokyo by studying Japanese for the first time ever in Beppu, Japan this summer. I may not be great yet, but hopefully you'll watch me grow as I blog my way through the fall program!