Why I Love My Host Family

By Shandrae, Cultural Care au pair from South Africa

This year has taught me many lessons – most of which were life changing. They have ranged from learning how to overcome cultural differences to learning how to be more social. However, none of these lessons can stand in comparison to the lessons I have learned from my host family.

Moving away from all I have ever known was overwhelming. I had great expectations of what the year should hold for me and what my host family would be like. I am so happy to say that all my expectations were not only met but surpassed in abundance.

From the very first night I arrived, I was welcomed with open arms and huge smiles. Brought to the house I now proudly call my home. I entered my new bedroom to find little gifts and precious treasures, such as pictures of my loved ones from my country and pictures drawn by my host kids to welcome me to the family. Tears clouded my eyes as I hugged my host mom. I felt at home.

In the months that followed I had discovered that there was so much more to my job than just taking care of children. With this family I am seen as an older sister, a teacher, a comforter and protector and most of all – a friend. There were growing pains that had to be faced, but I did not face them alone. I have great host parents who guided me through their parenting, and who consider me a part of their team. They helped me bond with each child individually, as well as together as a family. I now have a special connection with each of them that no one will ever be able to take from me.

Watching my four beautiful host children grow and develop over the past year has inspired me. There is nothing but pure joy and happiness that fill all of us when we’re together. Each day is a chance to go on a new adventure with them – to explore and learn something new. A chance for me to encourage and motivate their young minds to be the best they can be. A chance for me to learn from their aspiration to simply be happy.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned from my host family is to be grateful for what I have. My host family finds pleasure in the simplest of things in life, such as saying grace together before dinner and singing along to Disney songs while on a road trip. For them, family comes first. This is a lesson I shall instill in my family someday.

As much as they have taught me this past year, my host family has also afforded me the opportunity to be a part of their lives. They’ve allowed me to pursue my dream of working with children, which is my passion. They’ve let me into their amazing world that also includes my other passions – theatre and art. Having a host mom who is an actress and host kids who follow in her footsteps makes for a very interesting and inspiring family. Every time I see them on stage, I am reminded to follow my dreams and to live life passionately and to the fullest.

Today, I have a second place to call home and another family to call my own. I will forever be extremely grateful for each of them.