Kate: Is This a Normal Family? (female, US)
 
Kate applied late for a one-year homestay in her study abroad program, so she was very glad to be able to get a host family. The family sounded good; both the parents were professionals, there were two sons, and she would have a large detached bedroom with all conveniences. But when she met the family she saw that the two sons looked disheveled and didn't greet her. They had graduated from high school but it was unclear what they were doing. The mother was initially very friendly and took Kate many places. But the host siblings seemed angry at their mother, and were often yelling at her for various things.

The house had a very hostile and tense atmosphere due to all the fighting, and there were constant battles at the dinner table. During the evenings Kate could hear arguments, doors slamming, and abrupt moving of furniture from her room. Early in the semester the host parents found out that one brother was doing drugs, which created even more tension in the family. Following this the mother pressured Kate more and more to speak only English, and she became much less friendly. It gradually became clear to Kate that the mother considered English to be the solution to all of the family's problems, and that her role was to "save" the family, solely through teaching English to them. However, the rest of the family wanted nothing to do with the homestay (or with English).

The mother appeared to think that having an international student staying with the family would give everyone a boost, and that English would also be a benefit for everyone. But she seems to have failed to realize the extent of the family's problems, and to assume that Kate could solve everything.


Warning signs in this family:
  1. Constant fighting, expressions of anger, hostile and tense atmosphere, battles at the dinner table, and slamming of doors and furniture all indicate that this family has considerable problems with its own dynamics and a level of violence that is unacceptable for hosting an exchange student.
  2. The appearance of the host brothers and the family finding out that one brother is doing drugs are further indications of serious problems.
  3. The mother's increasing insistence on Kate's role as solving all the family's problems through speaking English is quite unrealistic; moreover it ignores Kate's own goals for being in Japan. Has she really come on a homestay to solve the host family's problems?
 
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