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It’s All About Flexibility

Dalya standing in front of a river and cliffs

By: Dalya Hasan (YES 2019-2020, West Bank, placed by ACES in Lambert, MT)

Adjusting to life with a host family was one of the most transformative and challenging aspects of my exchange experience. It was made even more challenging by changing families in the last quarter of my exchange year! The initial days were a mix of excitement and anxiety as I navigated a new culture, household dynamic, and daily routine.

I quickly realized that I needed to be flexible. One big adjustment I had to make to my daily routine was to align my mealtimes, transportation schedule, and events to my host family’s schedule. This required a shift in my personal habits and preferences.

I also had new rules and responsibilities. I had chores to do, including feeding the animals, yardwork and staying on track with my schoolwork. These duties aided in the smooth operation of the household and facilitated my assimilation into the family dynamic. While it took time getting used to, meeting these new standards was essential to fostering a sense of respect and love.

Dalya in traditional dress standing next to a tv with the Palestinian flag

I concentrated on having effective communication with my host families to build a strong relationship. I talked with them about our shared hobbies, cultural differences, and expectations of one another. This facilitated mutual understanding and speeded up the adjustment process. I was able to fit in with both families more easily by actively listening to their viewpoints and experiences.

Changing host families wasn’t something that bothered me. In fact, it taught me something particularly important. I was so happy with my first host family and created a lot of memories with them. But when COVID-19 hit, moving to a new host family was the best fit for both of us. I learned so much about care and communication from that experience.

Taking part in family gatherings and activities was another tactic I used to strengthen our relationship. Celebrating holidays, going on weekend trips, and attending family dinners solidified my place as a member of the family. It also gave me the opportunity to share my own traditions and highlight my cultural background, encouraging mutual exchange.

Whenever there were difficulties or miscommunications, I always used direct and honest communication. It was easier to integrate into my host family and avoid future disputes by addressing issues and getting clarity on cultural differences. I also aimed to always show thanks for their hospitality and a willingness to learn from them.

Living with host families was a complex process that required flexibility, communication, and a desire to accept new duties and guidelines. I not only overcame the difficulties but also created a strong and enduring bond with my host family by actively participating in their lives, upholding their values, and encouraging open communication, which made my exchange experience genuinely life-changing and enlightening.


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