A Host Mother Called Mama
One of the most difficult parts of being an exchange student occurs even before getting on the plane. It’s that moment when you start to question everything. What have I gotten myself into? Will I be able to learn the language? Who am I going to live with? What will my host family be like? Are they going to like me? Am I going to like them?
Host families are a very important aspect of exchange programs because besides giving you a room, your host family members become your emergency contacts, the people with whom you have lunch and share how your day was and the ones you run to whenever something happens. My program in Germany assigned me to three host families so that I could have different experiences during the year.
I had not experienced that kind of affection in such a long time, and it turns out that I’d be longing for someone else to take care of me.
During my first six months on the exchange, I was focused on being independent. For the first time, I was the one “behind the wheel.” I learned how the train system worked, and I made friends whom I went out with almost every day. I could not stand wasting a single day staying indoors. Plus, the weather was too fantastic for me not to put on my walking shoes and take the train to a city I had never visited before.
By the time I met my new host family, my German skills had improved and I could communicate well. I moved in on one of my host sister’s birthday so my first day involved a family reunion. I told my new family about my home country, Venezuela, and culture.
When I was ready to turn in for the night, my host mother surprised me with a goodnight kiss on my forehead! Right then, all of my “I’m independent” walls collapsed. I had not experienced that kind of affection in such a long time, and it turns out that I’d be longing for someone else to take care of me.
As the days went on, I realized that I had found my “home away from home.” I started to take the bus home at lunchtime to eat and chat with my host mother. I genuinely enjoyed our conversations, and I opened up to her, telling her about my life, my family history and my plans. I also told her all about the “exchange student world,” and she gave me advice as though I were her own daughter.
Today, a couple of years later, I still call my host mom “Mama.”
Even though she worked, she always took the time to sit with me and help me with my German language. She bought me books and a notebook where I could write new words and their translations.
One night, I returned home frustrated after a bad fight with one of my closest friends. Feeling homesick, I broke down crying in my host mom’s arms. She lay down on my bed with me, and we joke about why Germany was cooler than Venezuela and spoke about why everything was going to be just fine with my friend.
My host mom became a second mother to me. When winter arrived, she filled my blanket with feathers because she knew I was always cold. She took me to the doctor when I got sick, and bought me baby food when that was the only thing I could eat. I liked my family life so much that everyone started to comment on how radiant and happy I seemed all of the time. How could I not be constantly smiling when everything was fun with them–even cleaning the bathroom!
When I was ready to turn in for the night, my host mother surprised me with a goodnight kiss on my forehead!
Spending time with my host family was a priority to me, and whenever my friends wanted to go out, I invited them over to my new home. I knew they would feel as welcome as I did.
Feeling so connected with people from a different background proved to me that being family is about much more than just sharing the same blood. Today, a couple of years later, I still call my host mom “Mama.” We keep each other updated and try to Skype as often as we can. She is definitely one of the first people I write to every time something exciting happens in my life, and I love her and miss her the same way I missed my real family while I was abroad.
Photo credit for A Host Mother Called Mama by Unsplash.