Lost in Translation

allison harwood

Living in a foreign country for a whole six weeks is difficult, but people often overlook the difficulty of hosting an exchange student.
There is a great deal of planning involved in preparing to host. Having another person live in the house for over a month calls for adjustments which can be hard on a family. 
Sophomore Ashley Rasmussen, who is hosting Maria Jose Espinoza from Paraguay, said communication can be difficult because she is only in Spanish III. Rasmussen also said her family spends a lot more time together doing things with the exchange student. They eat dinner together every night. 
Increased family time is common in host families. Hanging out with friends also has to be planned more in advance than usual in order to make sure the guest has plans as well. Rasmussen said her schedule is not as flexible with an exchange student.
“On the weekends I only hang out with my exchange student and the other Paraguayans,” said junior Harrison Helmick, who is hosting Yanina Real. “It’s really fun, though.”
In contrast, signing up to host an exchange student is simple.
My Spanish teacher mentioned it to us one day and I expressed interest, so they gave me a form asking questions like ‘Does anyone in your family smoke?’ and my parents had to sign it,” Rasmussen said. “A few weeks after I turned it in I got a form Maria Jose had filled out with all of her information. Then I started e-mailing her and found her on Facebook,” said Rasmussen.
Rasmussen wanted to host a Paraguayan exchange student because she thought it would be a good opportunity to improve her Spanish and explore another culture. She has also found that she is learning this about her own culture.
“I’m learning that I say a whole bunch of unnecessary words instead of just getting the point across,” said Rasmussen.
The language barrier can be entertaining to both the hosts and students.
“I was writing down my address and it is Fox Chase Dr., and so she was reading my address as Fox Chase Doctor,” junior Hillary Yoder, who is hosting Betsa Insfran, said. “Little misunderstandings like that have been fun.” 
A big benefit of hosting an exchange student is the learning experience. Experiencing a new culture is unique and enriching.
“One of the things I’ve learned is that their food is a lot more bland in Paraguay,” said Helmick. “She also eats about a third of what I eat, if that. The stereotype that Americans are fat is definitely true.”