Sara Luehring is a senior at Ohio University, majoring in special education. Sara is completing a professional internship at a local school in Western Australia through the Consortium for Overseas Student Teaching (COST).
There are a lot of variables in my study abroad program. The application was kind of a choose-your-own adventure style, where you rank your choices for which country you’d like to travel to, how long you wish to be there, your accommodation preferences, and which price you want to pay. No wait, that last one is false…but wouldn’t that be nice?
I didn’t have a tough time making these decisions (shocking, considering it takes me ages to decide what I want to eat for lunch), but the choice I was the least sure about was what type of living accommodations I wanted. I went for the host family as my #1 pick, and now I’m so glad I did! I know that living on a university campus or in an apartment would have their own perks, but I am so grateful I got the chance to live with my lovely host family here in Perth.
The first benefit came even before I got to Australia. I emailed back and forth with my host mum a few times, giving me the opportunity to gush about how excited I was and ask at least 347 questions on what to bring and not to bring and how to pay for things and what to do and…the list goes on. She was able to give me some helpful info in return like not to bring towels, and to bring plenty of toiletries because they are so expensive here! She also ordered some shoes that were way cheaper in the US so she shipped them to my home, and I was able to help her out and bring them in my suitcase (and earn brownie points early on)!
When I arrived, I had some catching up to do, because Tim – the other COST student staying there — had already been in Perth for a few weeks. Luckily my charm and wit won them over, and I quickly overtook Tim as the favorite. Okay that’s not true… but we did get to do a lot together ‘as a family’ from the start, which made the transition into this new place a lot easier. When you travel around the world on your own, it’s definitely nice to have some routines to make things feel ‘normal’. We always have family dinner together and on Wednesdays, their grown son and daughter come over and join us, which has been a great way to get to know them and feel like a real part of the family. They also have taken us to some of their favorite spots around town, on a weekend trip about 4 hours away, and to various events like a comedy show and a play their daughter was involved in.
One of my main goals for this experience was to embrace the culture and try to live as much like a local as I could, rather than staying in my comfort zone and doing things I’m used to. Living with a host family has helped me live that goal out in so many ways! I have gone to zumba with my host mum, eaten at the local favorite restaurants, cheered on my host brother at his cricket matches, celebrated birthdays and done other Aussie things I would have never gotten to experience living on my own or with other American students.
Living with Janette and Steve has enriched my Aussie experience in so many ways, and I can truly say I’ve gained a home (far, far) away from home!