My family has been a host family for (almost) 20 years now, and I grew up living with American students from all over the US. It’s exciting to meet new people with a different culture and language – an experience from which both sides benefit. All of the students appreciated being integrated into a German family, becoming acquainted with the German culture and learning to work with a new language in everyday situations. They always have someone to ask if they have specific problems, which often turn out to be smaller than they seemed.
I like just hanging out with the students. There are so many things you can do. I always show them all the cool spots in Bonn and Cologne or just go to the bar at the next corner by our house and grab a “lemonade” after a busy day. Bonn is a college town and full of young, open-minded people. It’s easier to get in contact with the local community if you know a German student. I also introduce them to my German friends. So they meet other Germans besides people from the AIB and get a feeling of how a student’s life looks like in Germany. We also try to do little excursions whenever the students and I have a break or a long weekend in our schedules. But there’s always time to do something spontaneously like a visit to the movie theater, art gallery or local concert.
But the most important thing is that you really become friends with the students during their time abroad, whether in the semester or summer programs. From the first contact via email and the first meeting after the arrival until the end of the program, you get to know each other better. So on departure day it’s always very hard to say “goodbye.” But it’s not a forever type of “goodbye.” A German phrase says “Man sieht sich immer zweimal im Leben“ (You’ll always see each other twice in a lifetime) – and that’s true! A lot of students come back to visit us with their whole family. They’ll always have a place to stay when they come back to Germany for any reason. And I’ll visit them in the US, too. The contact never gets lost!
It’s absolutely the best decision you can make by choosing to stay with a host family during your time abroad.