Surviving my Host Family in Panama

November 14, 2011
Host Family

This is one of those times where I have to be extremely careful about what I say. I have checked and rechecked this to ensure that I am not caught in the act of defaming anyone’s character. That isn’t the intention of this post in the first place.

That said, let’s continue. **Deep breath. Here goes:

quit. [kwit]. verb (used with object).
2. to depart from; leave (a place or person).
quit. [kwit]. verb (used without object).
10. to depart or leave.
11. to stop trying, struggling, or the like; accept or acknowledge defeat.

Six weeks in, I quit. Quit what? you ask. I quit my host family.

My first host family experience was in Costa Rica, and when I say I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter, more accommodating, caring, and welcoming host mother, I mean it. To this day, Mamática Amira, whom I owe much of my amazing Costa Rican experience to, and I still keep in touch. I know that if ever I’m in CR again, I have a “home.”

Perhaps it was partly my fault in arriving to my host family in Panama with expectations or an already painted picture of what a host family experience is supposed to be…Perhaps.

All is said and done, and it didn’t work out. The strains and stresses of not being comfortable where you lay your head down at night and spend most of your time outside of school were too much. I also didn’t feel that by being in that less than ideal situation that I was building character, learning more about myself, or the like. Absolutely not. I was only waking up every morning wondering if this, if Panama, if studying abroad again was a good idea, was worth it, was something I wouldn’t end up regretting.

Those are questions I never asked myself in Costa Rica. Those are questions I never had to ask myself.

I have been told, on numerous occasions, that an anonymous blog about my host family situation would’ve been a good idea. I’m not that girl…sorry, folks. I don’t do “anonymous”…if I have something to say, from me, positive or negative, it’ll be from me.

I am placing blame nowhere and on no one. Some things just aren’t meant to be. I knew as soon as I arrived that this wasn’t what I signed up for, and I voiced my complaint early (day 3 to be exact). Sadly, when you are in a foreign country and are not traveling independently and are technically someone else’s responsibility, you are no longer on own your time. And being on someone else’s time made me feel helpless, made me wake up every morning with those semi-morose thoughts.

In my first post, I quoted Stevenson in saying “…The great affair is to move.” And move I did, finally.

It took over a month, a lot of voiced complaints, failed apartment-shopping trips, and countless “bad day”s, but I did what any smart woman traveler would do…I did all I could do—I persevered, I survived.

Though I’ve only been living with my new host family for a little over a day, I will admit that it’s a promising situation. I am content and at ease, which is honestly something I haven’t been able to say since I arrived in this country. And I have a host DAD and smell no female drama there.

apartment shopping in a foreign country isn’t as fun as it sounds…
…especially when your study abroad provider tells you they’ll no longer be responsible for you if you move.

Note: this is not a “woe is me” post. This is a life post, a life lesson post.

I am offering nothing more than the advice I have lived by since my arrival to a foreign country:

  1. Be smart: know where you are and who you are at all times. I was always aware that I was neither in America nor Costa Rica and that though things worked to my advantage in my previous study abroad experience, things would work a little differently now. That said, I know who I am: I don’t lie down and take it, I don’t put up with nonsense, and I get what I paid for.
  2. Never let it take away from “the experience.” Based on my previous posts from Panama, I’m having a blast here. How dare I pay to come to a foreign country and not enjoy myself? Enough said.
  3. Never quit. Always survive.

survive. [ser-vahyv]. verb (used without object)
3. to get along or remain healthy, happy, and unaffected in spite of some occurrence
survive. [ser-vahyv]. verb (used with object)
5. to endure or live through (an affliction, adversity, misery, etc.)

And I repeat: Never quit. Always survive.

Never quit. Always survive. Things have a habit of working together for your good 🙂
Finally, a front door that I’m happy to come “home” to


Photos by  Sierra Leone Starks.

About Sierra Leone Starks

Sierra Leone Starks is a multimedia journalist, fashion blogger, and social media junkie. Her work can be found on the print and web pages of some pretty fabulous women’s and lifestyle magazines and her footprints have graced numerous states and landed in several Latin American countries. Following her last extended stay abroad, she now lives by the motto, “If I made it through Panama, I can make it through anything.”

One thought on “Surviving my Host Family in Panama

  1. SwiQu
    January 15, 2012

    This blog is amazing! You have inspired me so much to do what I need to do. I am living with a host family also in Panama and although they are not the worst,they have charged me for gas, weren’t feeding me correctly, and they don’t even do anything with me. With all the other students on the trip, they are having a blast with their host families, I feel as though since I have paid for this trip, saving for almost six months, I deserve to have a good time.

    Thanks for that, not quitting but surviving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *