There are many reasons for changing host-families. Everything from not having the right chemistry to severe abuse (sexual and/or otherwise). An anonymous guest writer on Nationality Unknown reveals a common problem with host-families, one that can be difficult for outsiders to understand. This type of bullying might well be the result of not enough information about what it means to be a host-family, which is so much more than room and board.
“When I arrived at my first host family I was extremely excited. It took a while for my exchange organisation to find me one, which was extremely nerve-wracking (you must understand this struggle). When I finally got to meet them it was the first time I had heard about them, and also the first time they heard about me, which was a little odd. When getting the news they were allowed to host an exchange student, they didn´t even know what gender I was going to be. I had a sister and a brother and our house, even though it was small, it was truly amazing. It seemed everything I had hoped for.
Yes the weeks passed by and these little things weird things came up all the time. They ignored the fact that I had already been learning a lot of the language. From all of the arriving exchange students, I was one of the most advanced when it came to language, yet whenever they had a chance they would remind me that I wasn´t good at all, that I couldn´t understand anything. And not as a joke, or as constructive criticism. They also tended to be confused on where I was actually from, even after one month and me repeatedly telling and explaining them. It sounds silly, but it feels so bad when people don´t know or don´t recognize where you are from. When you go on exchange you get so confronted with your nationality and your identity, and when people don´t see that it´s like you are some ghost. A weird ghost that doesn´t fit in there, but apparently also doesn´t have a clear home.”
Fortunately, this exchange student was able to change families and their story turned out well. Staying on in the first host family would have destroyed the exchange student’s self-esteem. At least, that has been CSFES’ experience.
Several exchange students have shared their experiences on Nationality Unknown. Experiences range from gruesome to pleasant.