Studying Abroad: Living with a Host Family

I'm an only child, so this is my first taste of sibling life!
Left to right: host sister, myself, host brother
Hello, Life @ U of T readers! My name is Emi, and I am this semester’s Study Abroad Blogger!  I am a third-year specialist in Peace, Conflict and Justice at Victoria College. You may remember me as a Student Life Blogger from last year, where I talked about my second-year adventures, and documented the beginning of my exchange process.   It was mid-August when I loaded up a massive suitcase and hopped on a flight to Tokyo, Japan. This marked the beginning of my full-year exchange at the University of Tokyo (UTokyo). For the past two and a half months, I’ve been busy exploring Japan, juggling an internship with schoolwork, and adjusting to living life with my host family– a mother, father, and their two teenagers. Spending so much time with a Japanese family has been the highlight of my experience in Tokyo so far. Living with a family creates a sense of comfort and familiarity that I know would be harder to grasp if I lived on my own. Going to bed at reasonable hours and getting out of bed in the morning is part and parcel of family life, and through the familiarity of routine, I’ve been very happy despite being far away from home. I’ve also loved gaining a deeper insight into Japanese culture through my host family. When I arrived in Japan, I suffered from the misguided expectation that all Japanese families would be like my own! Having spent two summers living with my grandmother in Japan, I considered these experiences a template for what life is like in every Japanese household! But living with a new family showed me that as in Canada, different families have different customs, and there are many ways to be Japanese. One of my favourite parts about this has been trying new Japanese foods different from those my family makes. I’m always keen to try things for the first time! Living with a host family has also facilitated my language learning. Before going to Japan, a close friend told me the story of her parents– two expats living in Tokyo. Because of their English work environment, neither spoke Japanese, despite living in Japan for over a decade! Hearing this story made me conscious of the fact that simply existing in Japan for a year wouldn’t magically make me fluent in Japanese- it would be something to work toward. Living with a Japanese family helps me with my language goals by immersing me in a Japanese environment after a day full of English coursework at UTokyo. Over the past few months, I’ve felt my listening and communication skills improve leaps and bounds, all because of daily conversations at the dinner table. Living with a host family has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, and definitely one of my favourite parts of being an exchange student! I look forward to sharing more of my experiences in Tokyo with Life @ U of T readers in the coming weeks.

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