Finding Family Abroad

When I chose to be in a homestay, it was a rather last minute decision. I wasn’t really sure what to expect or if I would be the right fit for a family. However, throughout my time abroad, I was able to find the element of family that I needed while away from my own.

Sometimes people talk about the idea of a chosen family. This is to say that we all have family that we don’t get to pick and family that we do— strangers who become family. While studying abroad, there is so much excitement, independence, and adventure. But we all have human needs of intimacy and belonging that still need to be met. This is why I think finding a chosen family while abroad is vital; it kept me grounded and gave me a place of support.

I didn’t get to pick my homestay family myself, but they ended up being my perfect match. They encouraged me to explore and have fun, but always welcomed me home to chat and hygge. Over my semester abroad, I engaged in countless deep, reflective conversations with my host family. I think we were able to challenge each other in different ways. My host parents were also deeply aware of the fact that I am a young person who is actively learning and trying to grow more. They took the time to invest in that growth and help me along the way, which I’m extremely grateful for.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of being part of a host family is that I was able to engage with a family as I am. I know that sounds weird, but stick with me here. With my own family back home, there is so much history. As I’ve grown and changed over the years, I think it can be hard for my family to reconcile who I am now with who I was at different stages in my life. Sometimes I feel crushed by expectations or like the people who have known me the longest don’t actually know me, but a past version of myself.

Entering into a family as a 21-year-old, I was free to be authentically myself and see how I fit in with this family, not how someone I used to be fits in. The process was enlightening and humbling, and taught me more about myself. To be loved by total strangers because of who I am is incomprehensible. It’s not like I had a lot to offer the family that opened up their home to me; there’s nothing I can do to repay that. But they chose me day after day and we genuinely enjoyed our time together. 

It’s made me reflect a lot on chosen family, like my closest friends. It’s humbling to be known so authentically and for those people to keep choosing me for who I am right now, not who I’ve been or because of obligation. It’s overwhelming to think about the ways in which strangers become family and love each other so well.

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