Formal language learning in the classroom is further reinforced through such informal program components as homestays with Turkish host families. For the entire duration of the program, participants live with Turkish families. All host families provide private rooms for their American guests, as well as two meals per day during the week, and three meals per day on the weekends. The American Councils host family program is a popular feature of the exchange experience, as it complements the academic portion of the program by contributing to language acquisition and a deeper understanding of Turkish culture. All families are chosen through a careful selection process and monitored throughout the program by the Resident Director. Placements are made with consideration for student preferences and special requirements. In addition, best efforts are made to match students with families who share their interests. Each location is checked for security, relative proximity to the university and transportation routes, fire safety, and overall living conditions.
Here is a testimony from Caroline, a 2014-15 Turkish Overseas Flagship participant:
Before starting my Capstone year, one of the elements of the program I was most nervous about was the homestay. I had stayed with two host families during previous Turkish summer programs, but I wasn’t sure what it would be like staying with a family for an entire academic year when I’m so used to living on my own at IU. However, I had no reason to worry because I’ve been very happy with my host family experience so far. I was originally placed with a family that I ended up not getting along so well with, but the program did a great job of finding me another family and moving me there as soon as I was ready. I now stay with a middle-aged host mother, her 14-year-old daughter, and her mother.
I am typically pretty busy during the week with class and other program activities, but I am always able to spend plenty of time with my host family during the evenings. We usually make and eat dinner together, watch the news, and go on errands. We also have a lot of great conversations, ranging in topic from current events to childhood memories to anecdotes about our own cultures. Since my host sister is also a student we often do our homework together, which is a lot more fun that doing it on our own! And in the next few weeks, we have plans to go on a hiking trip, go to the theater, and see a movie together. Despite living with a family, I still have as much independence as I did when I was living on my own in America—I can stay out late, invite friends over, and otherwise live as I would in my own house. Though I was nervous about it, I am ultimately glad that the Capstone program has a host family component—spending time with my host family has improved my Turkish, enriched my cultural knowledge, and in general put me in contact with some wonderful people. And even though I’ve only stayed with my family for a short time, I’m sure I’ll miss them when it’s time for me to return to the US!
Madina, another 2014-15 TOF participant, shares her perspective of living with a local family below:
When I was first introduced to my host family, I was very nervous. I had never lived away from home, and being shy didn't help in building relationships quickly. Also, I couldn't speak Turkish well, so I had doubts that I would be able to express myself. However, my host family was incredibly warm and welcoming, and I hardly ever feel homesick. They help me fix the grammar mistakes I make, and my brother has taught me Turkish slang. They are also open-minded and supportive, so I've always had an open ear if I needed it. They've helped me grow as an individual, and I'll forever keep the memories we share.