Posts Tagged ‘homestay’

Xuanyan Ouyang, 2014-15 Fiji International Tourism for Development student blogger, writes:

Life-changing means you have experienced something different that alters life circumstances or outlooks in a substantial way. The day and a half we spent in Votua Village, short yet eye-opening, was just that.

Students and a villager wearing sulus

Students and a villager wearing sulus

The homestay experience helped us learn more about the true Fijian lifestyle and the impact of tourism on the villagers, and as a result, made us realize how blessed we are.

Villagers in Votua Village wore traditional sulus, a skirt of sorts worn by both men and women. The fabric can be either below-knee or ankle-length and is wrapped around the legs and secured by twisting at the waist. So, before we arrived, we put on our own sulus.

The first thing we did when we arrived at the village was have a kava ceremony.

Students listening to locals' introduction of the kava ceremony

Students listening to locals’ introduction of the kava ceremony

Kava is a traditional drink and is made using the roots of the plant, which are then ground and combined with water for drinking. We sat in a circle with some of the villagers to hear from them about the kava ceremony before sharing in the drinking of the kava.

Xuanyan spending time with village youngster Caroline

Xuanyan spending time with village youngster Caroline

After the ceremony, our homestay families picked us up and showed us to their homes, which would be our home for the next day. My homestay sister showed me and a few of my classmates around the village. Most of the time, we played with the kids in the village, as it was their school summer break during our visit so they were at home.

We also enjoyed some incredibly tasty food made by our homestay parents. Our homestay mom made coconut eggplant, chicken curry, and sausage with Chinese noodles for one meal.

Homestay meal

Homestay meal

Those experiences are not what made this experience life-changing, but it’s the fact that the living conditions are so drastically different and more challenging compared with that in the U.S. However, the villagers are still satisfied with what they have and are happy and optimistic about their lives.

My family did not have running water except for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. This means no flushing the toilet or using the sink whenever desired. With no air conditioner or fans in the house, the house is the same temperature as it is outside. They had a limited amount of income and are heavily dependent on tourism.

UI students and villagers

UI students and villagers

While it was a short period in a Fijian village, my homestay definitely brought me more than just the experience of a new lifestyle, knowledge of local Fijians, and academic reflection on tourism’s impacts. It brought me a new outlook. After this program, I think life is not about the constant pursuit of material fortune but rather about the mindset to be content with what we have, treasure it and share this attitude with others.


Read Full Post »

Victoria Robertson, 2014-15 Fiji International Tourism for Development student blogger, writes:

Going into my study abroad program, living with a homestay family was something I dreaded. Even while in Fiji, I couldn’t help but be nervous for what was to come. Looking back now, I wish I hadn’t been this way, as this was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of.

Meeting homestay familyMy homestay family immediately made me feel as if I was one of them, and to connect with the children on the level I was able to was absolutely incredible, to say the least.

Myself and another student stayed in a house with two twin girls about 8 years old. While taking our initial tour of Votua Village, each twin held our hands as if we’d known each other for years. From this point on, they were constantly attached to us, asking us to play games with them or watch them dance, amongst other activities.Homestay children

We also quickly learned how connected the community is, as well as how much communal living plays a part in the lives of the villagers. Throughout our stay, there was a constant flow of people in and out of the house, almost to the point you weren’t sure who actually lived there.

Village neighbors
While staying in someone else’s home can be a bit intimidating, especially if it happens to be abroad while you’re learning not only about a new family, but about a new culture as well, I suggest students embrace it without holding back.

If your experience is anything like mine, you won’t only have a fantastic time with some of the most interesting people you’ve ever met, but you will also leave feeling like family.

And to know that I have a family thinking about me back in Fiji is priceless.

Read Full Post »