July 10, 2014 - Shortly before returning home to Italy, AFS Exchange Student, Valeria, composed a letter to potential U.S. host families.
July 9, 2014 - Germany is home to a lot of surprising perks that will make your time there unforgettable.
June 27, 2014 - Our top picks for the most memorable moments in the World Cup so far.
June 25, 2014 - Some things are so good they need to be shared with the world.
June 24, 2014 - On a trip to Italy, U.S. Host Parents Gayle and Randy discover what a small world it can be when you're part of the AFS community.
June 18, 2014 - The perfect balance of comfort and intrigue, Chile is an ideal place to call home for a semester or a year abroad.
June 13, 2014 - We all secretly want to believe that superheroes are real. Here's why we suspect many are just disguised as dads and host dads.
June 12, 2014 - We love soccer as much as the next person, but there are other reasons Brazil is worthy of your attention.
May 29, 2014 - An inside look at the end-of-program rituals that seal friendships forever and put the study abroad experience into perspective.
May 14, 2014 - An AFS student preparing to study abroad in Italy discovers the power of the AFS connection, even before the plane takes off.
April 17, 2014 - When you study abroad, you find a new home. Check out these host family houses worldwide to see how that new home might look.
April 2, 2014 - Overcoming the language barrier can seem daunting, but there are very good reasons not to stress about it before going abroad.
March 26, 2014 - An AFS student studying abroad in Italy reaches that magic point in her exchange program when the unfamiliar suddenly feels so right.
March 11, 2014 - An AFS student describes his new life in New Zealand and reveals what the first two weeks in a new country are really like.
March 6, 2014 - This month, we're telling AFS host families how grateful we are for the generosity, kindness and commitment. Here's how you can, too!
An AFS student's Turkish host family reacts to his cultural faux pas at the dinner table.
Making a cultural faux pas while studying abroad can be incredibly embarrassing. Maybe you offended your dear, sweet host mother; accidentally defied your teacher; did the wrong thing on the bus; ordered the wrong thing at the restaurant... The possibilities are endless.
But, so is your resilience! Many people find that, when they are abroad, they become bolder versions of themselves - better able to shake off embarrassment and bounce back from challenges. And in the process, they grow so much more than they ever could have in easier, more familiar surroundings.
Nonetheless, the thought of fumbling around in a foreign setting can be overwhelming. So, to help us all feel better about our propensity for error, here are some laugh-out-loud stories of cultural faux pas committed by real study abroad participants. Please read, laugh, enjoy, and remember that one thing you'll most certainly learn while abroad is how to laugh at yourself!
When I arrived in Germany, I didn’t understand the difference between the words Eichhörnchen, meaning squirrel, and Einhornchen, meaning unicorn. The kids at my school either thought I was out of my mind or had a weird sense of humor, because they let me talk about the unicorns in the trees, and the viciousness of unicorns back home, for months before telling me the difference between the words!
While studying abroad in Morocco, I lived with a Muslim host family in a traditionally styled home. The house had an inner, open-air courtyard that got wet when it rained, and one rainy afternoon, I came home needing to quickly check my email. I rushed across the courtyard to the room with the internet hookup, but before entering, I instinctively wiped my wet shoes on the mat at the entrance. Only after doing so did I realize that the “mat” was actually my host father’s prayer rug! He had just finished his afternoon prayer, and the look on his face was something close to horrified. Islamic prayer rugs need to be kept extremely clean, since prayers must be conducted in a clean space, and I had completely tarnished it. After I began apologizing profusely, though, his face softened and he graciously forgave my terrible blunder.
While studying abroad in France, my host family ordered a giant plate of whole shrimp at a restaurant. The shrimp came out with everything still attached from head to tail. I asked how shrimp was traditionally eaten in France, and they said, "oh, you just eat the whole thing! You Americans are so wasteful and throw the best parts out." So, I popped the whole thing in my mouth and the table erupted in laughter. "What?!” I said. “I thought you ate the whole thing?!" My host mother shouted, in horror, "Not zee head!!!" So, apparently they don't eat the whole thing...
Before I left for my exchange program in Germany, I emailed back and forth with my future host family. I made the fatal flaw of using an online translator to ask my host mom whether I would be able to buy a hair straightener in Germany, and I ended up asking whether I'd be able to find hair plugs in Germany! My host family was then expecting a balding 16 year old girl to arrive at their home.
When I was studying abroad in Russia, I would always walk around my host family’s home barefoot, since this is what I’ve always done in the US. I noticed that they kept asking if I wanted to use the house shoes that they all wore so I wouldn’t get too cold, but I always just said, “no thank you.” Finally, I realized that they found my bare feet really creepy. They were trying to tell me that in a nice way, and I couldn’t take a hint!
When I studied abroad in Ecuador, I was hosted in a rural village, where not much English was spoken. I hadn't spoken much Spanish other than in school, and when talking to my host family and other villagers I mistakenly said, "Estoy embarazado." I wanted to express my embarrassment for my lack of Spanish language skills, but instead, I told them I was pregnant. Lesson learned: Embarazado means pregnant!