“Hello! My name is Margaret, your AFS exchange student, and I’m so excited to meet you in a few weeks!” That’s how I began my first email to my Indian host family, as you can see I went the slightly-too-happy route. But it’s harder than you might think to convey everything you want to say to these people. Imagine you’ve just received an email with names, addresses, photos, and bios of complete strangers who have agreed to let you live with them for two weeks. Crazy, right? Though I haven’t met them yet, I feel very lucky. They seem like wonderful people who are just as excited to meet me as I am to meet them.
Because I haven’t had a chance to ask them (timely emailing is hard with a 12 1/2 hour time difference), I’m not going to publish their names here until I have their permission. I will, however, tell you some general facts. I’ll be living with a couple, their 15-year-old daughter, and their dachshund puppy in what they call “the society” but I interpret to be an apartment complex of some sort. I’ll be sharing a room with my host sister, which will be a brand-new experience for me! I think it will encourage me to stay engaged in the family instead of spending too much time talking to people back home. Sorry guys, if you want to hear from me, read my blog! (shameless plug. Not sorry about it) The complex has “a gym, a skating rink, and sprawling lawns [with] markets and restaurants at a walking distance.” It sounds absolutely lovely, plus they speak English as well as Hindi for which I am very grateful. From what I’ve gathered, the mother is a principal AFS volunteer for the region so she’ll understand how everything works once I arrive. That will come in handy since I have basically no idea.
It’s a very strange feeling to “know” people on the other side of the world. People who were complete strangers not two weeks ago and, in most ways, still are. When I received the email from AFS last week, my reaction was a mixture of joy and nervousness, “They seem great! But what if they don’t like me? What if we don’t get along? They have a daughter my age, that’s awesome! But what if she hates me or is mean? What if…” My mind ran in circles like that for a while, but having since exchanged emails with my “mom” I feel a bit more reassured. Her emails, though formal in words, are very loving and kind. She keeps asking me if there’s anything I want to do while there and to let her know if I have any questions or concerns. She told me that they’re all “equally excited” to meet me and that her daughter hasn’t stopped talking about me since they received my information. I can definitely relate. I haven’t stopped talking about them either!
**This is my formal apology to everyone who has had to listen to me repeat the same basic information about them over and over. I promise when I get home I will have a large variety of India stories to annoy you with.**
It’s nice to know that they feel that they’re getting something from this experience as well. Even though my family hosted a student for all of last year and it was great (Love and miss you Mona <3) it’s easy to feel like I’m inconveniencing them since it’s such a short stay. I so appreciate what they’re doing for me and I’m unbelievably thrilled to have been blessed with such a welcoming and kind family.
All in all, getting a host family is a fantastic and very nerve-racking experience. As with everything else in this process it was a waiting game, but totally worth it. I actually really appreciate that AFS takes their time with this rather than just throwing us into any family. Knowing that they put so much time and effort into my family assignment makes me more confident that this truly is the right family for me. One week from now (!) I will be on a plane to India and I’m so happy to already know and love the people waiting on the other side.
Thanks for reading! Check back tomorrow to learn all about how I’m packing and preparing for this adventure. Until then, अलविदा!