Student News

China #10: The Home Stay Experience

Christina Kopp – June 25, 2014

For the Deerfield students in China, staying with a host family is an unforgettable experience.  Below are photos from Allie Roberts ’16 and Ceci Swenson ’16, as well as a poem by Ballard Brown ’16 and reflections from Kento Yamamoto ’16 and Gene Thagard ’15:

Allie Roberts with her home stay sister

Allie Roberts with her home stay sister

Kento: I did not outwardly show that I was nervous, but I really was before going to Edward’s house. I had no idea how old he was, or what he was like, but he seemed like a nice kid. So, I decided to go in with an open mind. When I got in the car with Edward and his dad, I instantly knew that the next five days were going to be great. Edward’s dad, Guo Laoshi, as I call him, has great ideas, and our opinions match on-point. He was me in 40 years. He was able to speak fine English, and we would always have very deep conversations at night, even after Edward and his mom went to bed. It was great. The very last night, at dinner with the other three host families, Guo Laoshi told me that he wanted to share a history lesson with me. When we got back to their house, he took out some old photos of him in Shanghai during the 1986 protest. He gave me all of his thoughts on that experience and even showed me photos of the 1989 protest at Tiananmen Square. He told me he was there during the June 6th night. He also said that if the angle of the soldier’s guns were even two degrees lower, he would have been gone. What a story.

Living with the Guo family opened my eyes.  I never thought about what a normal, middle-class, Chinese family would be like. I understood in the past five days. It wasn’t about the money, or the luxurious artifacts or even a big house. It was about what was inside the head. Sharing intellect.


Today we awoke to more class,
Some were tired, eyes like glass.
That was not the most wow thing 
Although in class we had to sing. 
The part that was such wow stuff
Was moving in with host families, for some ’twas rough.
My host family is quite nice
In their house there are no mice. 
The house was nice, small, and quaint. 
It sported the slight smell of new paint.
The language barrier was not too bad,
Especially in a house that was this rad. 
To be honest there was culture shock. 
But I am happy, because they rock.
With this my tale must come to an end,
I leave you with these words to mend 
We are all happy, safe, and sound
Our families are the best to be found


Heading over, I was kind of concerned about how the home stay would work. I had never faced language and cultural barriers such as this before. I was not very confident in my Chinese, and my family was not confident in their English. The first few days were one of understanding and lot of work. I tried my hardest to use what Chinese I knew and sought to explain American culture to the family. The family also tried their hardest to accommodate me. They were extraordinarily generous. It was a struggle, but we pulled through the first few days. And then I started to get frustrated. I didn’t show anything on the outside, but I was getting quite frustrated at my inability to ask and say the simplest of actions. I struggled asking for a bottle of water or telling the mother that I was full for the 15th time. It was incredibly frustrating and most certainly something I had never faced before.

But last night, I analyzed my attempts to speak Chinese to the family, and I noticed that my Chinese had gotten much better. Although I was still struggling, I had learned so much. Things that consistently tripped me up in Chinese class had now become natural. If I look back at myself before the home stay, I was uncertain of my Chinese and prefaced everything by saying “我的中文很不好” (“My Chinese is very bad”), but now, I feel confident. I know that I have a long way to go in learning Chinese, but I have the confidence to strike up conversations with strangers and use what I have learned. I am confident and ready to take on the rest of China. This home stay experience has really changed my trip and my Chinese learning curve. 

Ceci Swenson with her home stay family

Ceci Swenson with her home stay family