Homestay and Homesickness
It is common for participants to experience homesickness during key stages of the program, especially during the homestay. During the homestay, participants are immersed in the daily lives of their host family and experience another way of living and communicating. It is important to note that the first few days of the homestay can be challenging as participants adjust to a new schedule and family life. Participants and parents typically feel the most anxiety about the homestay, but our evaluations consistently show that participants consider the homestay to be the highlight of their program.
One of the best ways to address any anxiety surrounding the homestay is to actively reach out to and engage the family members. It will be uncomfortable for a little bit, but, if participants stick with it, they will have a rewarding experience. Also, please know that the Experiment group leaders are there to support the participants throughout this process of adjustment.
Many Experiment participants have dietary preferences, such as vegetarianism and veganism, unrelated to a medical condition. Sticking to a specific diet abroad can be a challenge, depending on the program location. In general, one should remember that it is the responsibility of the participant to adapt to the culture they are in and to be prepared to remain flexible in many ways, including in relation to dietary preferences.
In many instances — when with the group, on excursions, or when eating on one’s own — participants find it is possible to follow a specific diet. However, when living with homestay families, it is often difficult to adhere to that diet — for example, to remain a strict vegetarian. Examples of accommodations participants have had to make include eating vegetables cooked in the same pot with meat, and taking meat on one’s plate as a display of respect.
Culture and Policy
It is important for participants to be aware of cultural norms around language, attire, and behavior. Pay attention to your packing list, which will indicate, for example, particular countries where short shorts may be offensive to local people. For safety’s sake, participants should also be aware of where they are expected to be at any given time.
Being on an Experiment program includes being away from home for an extended time and agreeing that during this time you will abstain from any tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs. The use of these substances may result in dismissal from the program, and it will be the responsibility of dismissed participants and their families to arrange for the return home.
Challenging programs, the camaraderie of fellow participants, and the guidance and support of group leaders give Experiment participants a rewarding experience and lifelong memories. It is important to remember, however, that there are many policies intended to protect the safety and well-being of the participants, leaders, partner office personnel, the environment, and the host culture during each Experiment program. When a participant is not able to follow established guidelines, leaders have an obligation to intervene on behalf of the organization, group, or individuals. Certain behaviors will be managed in the field, while other conduct will require a response that extends beyond what is possible in the field.
Expectations of Participants in Conjunction with Experiment Policies:
- All participants will be inclusive and respectful of other participants, group leaders, Experiment staff, partners, and host families.
- Everyone will participate actively, stay on track with scheduled programming, and work within the schedule of the group.
- It is Experiment policy to strongly discourage any exclusive relationship, romantic or fraternal.
- Other expectations and/or policies will be given by the direction of the leaders prior to or at the start of each program.
Leaders, with Guidance and Support of other Experiment Staff, may Respond to Behavioral Incidents in the Following Way(s):
- Report to The Experiment and/or the participant’s parent(s)/guardians
- Written behavioral contract with participant
- Suspension of activities or privileges
- Dismissal of participant from the program. (Logistical and financial arrangements for changes in travel are the responsibility of the participant and their family/guardians.)
Examples of behaviors that require intervention by The Experiment include:
- Compromising the physical or emotional safety of another individual or group
- Endangering oneself or others through blatant disregard of established guidelines and policies
- Illegal acts, including the possession and/or use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco
- Repeatedly disregarding specific behavioral expectations
- Signs of severe depression or other disorders that may be injurious without intervention of trained counselors or psychiatric help
- Exclusive relationships that draw undue attention to or away from others
- Undisclosed medical/mental health conditions and/or medications