By Kirby K

Going into this trip, I was quite hesitant about the homestay experience. I have heard all of my life about how different daily life is in China and I knew that I would be put out of my comfort zone. As soon as I walked in the door of my host family’s apartment, I was given slippers to wear instead of shoes. Dinner consisted of traditional foods such as pork, eggs, rice, and fish soup. The dinner went on without a hitch, except for when I managed to spill the fish soup on my lap. My chopstick skills were still developing.

The following week with my host family were beyond eye-opening. I was constantly learning about new traditions common in Chinese households. Hospitality is extremely important in Chinese homes – I was given gifts and a large meal prepared by my host mother as soon as I arrived every night. Even though neither of my host parents spoke any English, their smiles alone made me feel welcome.

There is no doubt that I was out of my comfort zone for much of my stay at the house but I am very grateful for this. If we had, for instance, stayed in a hotel, we would have constantly been surrounded by fellow Americans. Being entirely secluded from the people and customs that we are used to made us appreciate where we were and what we were learning much more.

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Kirby and the students he hosted in Richmond and was hosted by in Yangzhou. The reciprocal exchange strengthens both the connections between the students and the insight for all involved.

Reflection by Mackenzie M.

My host family and Miranda was very nice and made me feel at home even though their was a language barrier with her parents. The first night, I walked into a beautiful apartment and I was shown to my room for the week. I soon learned that the room I was staying in was Miranda’s room. I assumed she would be sleeping with me but she told me right away that she would sleep with her mother so I could have my own room, which was so generous of them. Once settled in, I went to eat dinner with her family including her aunt who had come over to make me a special tradition Chinese home cooked meal, and I was shocked by the amount of food that was placed on the table. I learned that in China, families make multiple dishes and eat large portions three times a day. Miranda never snacked or ate unless we were all sitting down or it was a planned meal. I enjoyed the meals with Miranda’s family, and they even bought me dumplings in a bag  for breakfast and they were delicious. 

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