What would it be like to travel across continents, oceans, even hemispheres to a country you have never been before where you don’t speak the language very well? How would it feel to get off the plane and make your way to the baggage claim where you are greeted by people you have only read about but have never met? Finally, what would be the sensation of knowing that you are about to spend the duration of your trip living at their house, sleeping there, eating there and essentially being a part of their family? What would that be like? The majority of the general students at Bridge know exactly how that feels. These first sensations are all a part of living with a host family.
Having stayed with a host family myself in Chile, I can relate to the excitement, nervousness, trepidation, and all of the other feelings that surge through your body upon first meeting your host family. Will I like them? Will I be able to communicate with them? What will my room look like? These are only some of the questions that go through a student’s mind when they first see their host family; questions that are soon answered and fondly remembered for the rest of their lives. I had the opportunity to interview three of Bridge’s current executive students to find out what their host family experience has been like thus far and after chatting with them, I can safely say that hotels don’t stand a chance.
Student 1 : Edward Carrasco
The first student I interviewed was Edwardo Carrasco from Venezuela who will be here for a month. He is a bubbly, gregarious person with a ton of energy and a thirst to learn as much English as he can in one month.
AB: “How has your experience been so far living with your host family?”
EC: “It has been a great experience so far! Living with a host family is a great option when you need to learn another language because after learning at school, you go home and learn more with your host family. My host mom teaches me good pronunciation and how to say things. She corrects me when I make mistakes. She is my teacher at home. Sometimes if I don’t understand something that she says, she tries to use other words to explain what she wants to say. She has a beautiful garden in the backyard with flowers and…what are those animals called? (he puts his fingers up to his mouth as if her were eating something) Squirrels! Lots of squirrels!”
AB: “What are some major differences between here and Venezuela that you have noticed?”
EC: “I love the busses here! They are always on time. Everyday I take the same bus at exactly 8:30am and I always arrive at Bridge at 8:55am. It is amazing! In Venezuela, if you choose to take the bus, you never know when it is going to come, maybe in five minutes, maybe in an hour. Also, I feel very safe here. Here in Denver, you can walk around talking on your iPhone or Blackberry and not have to worry about somebody stealing it out of your hand. You cannot do that in Venezuela. I feel safe walking home at night from a restaurant or a bar.
Also, there are many houses here. In Caracas, there are only apartments, no houses. Caracas is very big so there isn’t room for houses or gardens. Here in Denver there are so many parks and trees…lots of trees! I love it too much! Also, so many people have tattoos here. I have never seen so many people with tattoos. In Venezuela this is not common.”
AB: “Has anything funny happened between you and your host mom regarding the language barrier or cultural differences?”
EC: Well, I love to talk and practice my English. So every night after dinner my host mom and I talk about things and I ask questions and tell her about my day and about my life. We finish dinner and around 8:30pm and before I know it, it is 10:30pm and I have been talking the whole time! My host mom tells me, “Eduardo, I love talking to you but I need to go to sleep now!”
AB: “What else can you tell me about your experience with your host family?”
EC: “Before I came here, when I heard English, sometimes it sounded like one big mess of words that I couldn’t understand. But now, when I hear the TV or the radio I can actually hear and understand distinct words. The contact with the people and my host mom has permitted me to understand many expressions. My ear identifies the sounds and I can understand what people are saying better than before.”
AB: “Would you recommend staying with a host family to other people?”
EC: Absolutely! If you stay at a hotel, you have no one to practice your English with and no one to talk to. I love staying with a host family. I have benefited a lot. I plan to keep in touch with my host mom. She is a wonderful person and I hope to come back and visit someday!”
Student 2: Julian Velázquez
The next student I interviewed is named Julian Velázquez, a mild-mannered executive from Cali, Colombia. He has been studying at Bridge for a little under two months and plans on returning to Colombia at the end of August. Julian has a great passion for learning English and has been living with a host family as well. I caught up with Julian during lunch break to ask him about his experiences at Bridge.
AB: “Julian, tell me a little about your experience living with your host family.”
JV: “My experience with my host family has been very good. The only stipulation I had regarding my host family was that it was near Bridge so I could walk to school everyday. My house is very close so it is convenient for me. My host mom and dad are very nice, respectful people. At night during dinner we talk about everything and my host mother teaches me many words and how to say things. I have learned a lot from her.”
AB: “Have there been any funny or unusual experiences that have happened with you and your host family?”
JV: “Yes, actually, one time when I went out with some friends at night, we ended up staying out very late, until around 2 a.m. When I arrived back to my house I realized that I had forgotten my keys! So I had to ring the bell. I felt really bad because I had woken up my host mom. She opened the door and smiled at me and said, “Julian, please don’t forget to take your keys with you always! It was funny but I learned my lesson to always make sure I have my keys with me.”
AB: “What are some differences that you have noticed between Denver and Cali?”
JV: “Well, the way people eat here is different. For example, in Colombia we never eat cereal with milk. That is so strange! I have never seen that before. In Colombia we eat bread and butter and coffee and maybe some eggs for breakfast. Also, here in Colorado, dinner is a big meal. There is so much food. It is the biggest meal of the day. In Cali, dinner is very small, just a snack really. People are very friendly here also. One day I was walking to school and a man who was walking his dogs introduced himself to me and told me about his dogs. I didn’t understand everything but he was really nice.”
AB: “What kinds of things have you seen or done in Colorado since you have been here?”
JV: “I have seen many things. I went to Colorado Springs and also to the Rocky Mountains, Red Rocks and that place where the cowboy is buried…Buffalo Bill’s Grave! I have eaten at some really good restaurants; Elway’s, Rock Bottom Brewery and La Rodizio, which is a Brazilian steakhouse. Good!”
AB: “What else can you say about your experience with your host family and Bridge?”
JV: “I would definitely recommend staying with a host family. My host family is great and I want to visit them again someday. I have made good friends here and all of the teachers are very concerned that I learn English. In two years, when my daughter turns eighteen, I am going to send her to Bridge so that she can learn English too. It has been a great experience. I love the “American Way!”
Student 3: Fabiano Estrada
The last student I interviewed is also an executive named Fabiano Estrada from Brazil. Fabiano is also here for one month and as excited as he is to be learning English in Denver, Colorado, he is anxious to get back to his newborn son and wife in Brazil. Fabiano has been having a great time staying with his host family and he shared some of his experiences with me.”
AB: “Fabiano, tell me about your host family.”
FE: “I live with my host mom and four other students so there is always someone to talk to. We have a great time sharing stories about our cultures and our countries. My host mom is so nice. The first night I was here she cooked me Brazilian food; rice and beans and veggies! It was so great! She is a great cook and loves to cook for me. I like that a lot especially after studying English all day. I have great interaction with the other students at the house and there is a nice ambiance.”
AB: “What difference have you noticed between Denver and Brazil?”
FE: “The transportation is so organized, always on time and very clean and safe. In Brazil it isn’t like that. It is also very safe here. I feel very secure in Denver.”
AB: “Anything else you would like to share about your experience here?”
FE: “I would definitely recommend staying with a host family. It is the only way to really immerse yourself in a different culture and the language. I have learned a lot at Bridge. Denver is a great city and things are so cheap! I went to the Castle Rock Outlet Mall and I bought so much stuff! I also went to a Brazilian restaurant here in Denver, which was very good. All in all it has been a great experience and the time I have spent with my host mom has been totally worth it.”
Eduardo, Julian and Fabiano are only three of the many students that come to Bridge from all over the world and who choose to stay with host families. I have talked to many students and they all say great things about their host family experience. Bridge has had the same families hosting students for years. They are wonderful, giving people who enjoy having students from all over globe share their home with them. Staying with a host family is an experience that a student will cherish for the rest of their lives, and after the initial shock of being in a different country, in a different house, the students, as well as the people who host them, really do become like a family which is why they are not merely called host people but host families.