How to get the most out of your home away from home!

Coming to Ecuador soon? (we're looking at you UNCC!) The homestay experience is one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of your experience here. To prepare you for the exciting road ahead, we've compiled a Homestay Survival Guide, put together by seasoned homestay pros. Here's how to survive and thrive during your Ecuadorian homestay!

1. Don't be afraid to ask questions

Even though the Cuencano accent makes Ecuador one of the best places to learn Spanish, sometimes your host family's conversations will leave you in a daze. When it comes to learning things like how to lock the door, when to be downstairs for breakfast, or how to fill your phone with more minutes, you can't go wrong with asking questions. If you don't understand, ask again, get out the dictionary, or grab you translator app! The persistence pays off when you don't spend the night locked out of your casa.

2. Always tell your host family when you leave the house

Ecuadorian host moms may seem overbearing. Always wanting to know where you are going, with whom, and when you'll be back can be a bit of a shock for students used to running their own schedules. To not cause any family drama, always tell your host family whenever you leave the house and be sure to follow all of the house rules. They'll feel respected, and you'll feel safe knowing they'll be waiting for you back at home!

3. Call home if your plans change

Again, your host fam will really want you to stick to the exact schedule you mapped out before you went out on the town. Now that you're out there, it's raining, there are no cabs available, and you heard about a salsa band doing a live concert downtown. You'll have to miss dinner at home! If any plans even remotely change, make sure to phone home.

4. Teach your favorite card game

There's no better way to practice Spanish than to teach a skill, or a game! Make your home away from home a little more familiar by teaching your host fam your favorite game. Who knows, you might end up playing every night of the week!

5. Grab some extra bread or bananas when you're out

To show you're thinking of your fam even when you're out and about, grab a yapa (a little extra) of some fruit or bread for your host family if you're at the market. Some host moms don't have time to get out every day to buy more, so if you see you've eaten the last piece of bread, do your part and grab some more!

6. Trade a night out for a night in

Ask your host fam if they're around, and spend a night in with some fresh canguil (popcorn), fuzzy blankets, and a Spanish movie. Don't have any DVDs in the house? Swing by the El Nomad center, where we've got dozens for you to choose from.

7. Embrace being out of your comfort zone

You're only going to have the unique opportunity to be surrounded by Spanish for a short time, so embrace the uncomfortable, and embrace the chance to speak! I only ever improved my Spanish when I stopped being shy about my shaky speaking skills and just spoke confidently, despite the pauses and mistakes. The effort really pays off when you order coffee in town, and the cafe owner is surprised by your skills!

8. Just go with it

Sometimes your host mom might make a sly comment about how much you've eaten (sorry! Ecuador just has great food!) or your clothes looking sloppy (PJs at breakfast might not be the best move). Honestly, this is just a cultural norm around here, and it's best even if you are offended to brush it off. Your relationship with the family will fare best if you do.

The best homestay experiences really come from embracing the new environment, and making the most of the short time you'll have with your host family. If all goes well, you'll end up with a second madre from Ecuador, who will send you long and emotional messages each birthday, Christmas, or even an average Tuesday.

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