Thursday, September 8, 2011

When one door closes, another opens...

"Life's challenges aren't supposed to paralyze you,
they're supposed to help you discover who you are."

This quote explains my current situation perfectly.  I have been experiencing some obstacles since my second week in Malaysia, and I have felt uncomfortable writing about them until now.  I have to admit, I, along with every other exchange student I am sure, never thought I would have to get a new host family.  I have had fabulous past experiences in Paraguay and with hosting Jenny, so I thought it would all be that easy.  However the past two months have taught me different, and while they have been hard, they have taught me a lot and they have been worth it. :)

Right after I got here my host mom told me that it wasn't fun to be a teenage girl in her household, or and Muslim household, for that matter.  I have to admit that at first it caught me off gaurd, and I really didn't know what to think after basically being told me that my entire year in Malaysia wasn't going to be fun.  But my host mom convinced me that it was my duty to 'suffer' through it (because it was, after all, only a year) and that it was my duty as an exchange student.  As time went on I learned that my family was very serious, and extremely close knit.  They didn't like me to hang out with friends or talk to other exchange students because she didn't want me to compare the different households, and they didn't think I would be safe leaving the house without them.  Basically, this meant that I would have to spend almost all my time at home and not be allowed to see my friends (without my host parents being there, at least).  This really got to be after awhile, not just the rules, the the overall lack of connection with my family, but my host parents continued to convince me that it was my duty, and that I wasn't here as a tourist.  My host parents frequently asked me if I was going to be able to adjust to their rules, asked me if I was strong enough (also the last exchange student they hosted left before the year was over), and I was determined to prove to them that I could do it.  But after seventh week and I still wasn't happy I convinced myself that there was something wrong with me and that YES made a mistake in selecting me for the program.  But when I sat down and thought about one day not too long ago, it I realized I was wrong, and that I was meant for this, how happy I had been when I found out I got this scholarship, and that I had been looking forward to this program all year long.  I didn't want to spend the year counting down the days until I went home.

So after a good talk with some friends and family, I realized that it wasn't all my fault the I wasn't connecting to my family, and I had to do the thing I least wanted, and change families.  However, that worst part was telling them that I wanted a new family.  So after three hours of yelling, crying, and was over!  My family had never been bad to me, and had give me my own room, laptop, tons of food, technically everything the program said I needed, so I felt awful for telling them; but I didn't want to spend the rest of the year in my house watching NCIS and Law & Order.  They were, ARE, a good family, just not right for me, not right now at least.  It reminded me once again that this really isn't a vacation, and it's not all easy and fun.  It reminded me that on your year abroad you don't just learn about culture, but also a lot about yourself and handling situations you would do anything to run away from.  It's not like home where you can call your mom or dad and have them handle your problems for you (even though I have to admit I tried....haha).  It also reminded me that sometimes you have to step back and realize what is best for you, and do what it takes so that you can go to sleep with a smile on your face.

So in a nutshell...I am getting a new host family!!  I'm not sure the exact day, or what they will be like, but I DO know that I am really excited to begin the new part of my journey.  :)


  1. Certainly an awkward dilemma, Sarah, but you've handled it intelligently and with aplomb! Can't wait to hear about your new family.

  2. Sorrow you had to go through all that, but as you've said I'm sure you've learned a lot. I hope your new family turns out for the better. Thanks for keeping us up to date. I dropped Jacob off at college a day ago and it was HARD!! Its going to be weird having no kids at home now after 29 years of having them there. He was pretty excited & it looks like he has some good roommates. Keep smiling. Kay Lynn

  3. Oh little rabbit girl! This is so well written and you are so strong!
    I know it was super hard but you are awesome. I'm glad you are moving on, good choice. Now, if we can get your mom's heart rate and BP down we'll be in REALLY good shape....;)