Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Homestay Profile: Joanna Benner

We have eight "Homestay Students" this semester; students who live off-campus with a Ugandan family for the entire semester.  One of these students is Joanna Benner, a second year nursing student from Messiah College, who would like to share her experience with you...

"Coming into the semester, I had a lot of hopes about what my future host family would be like. I was looking forward to this part of my experience abroad more than anything else. This put me in a dangerous position to possibly be disappointed if my host family situation was not as I had hoped it would be, leaving me very nervous when the time came to get dropped off. But, when I arrived at my host family's house, all my expectations faded away and I was showered with love and hospitality. My mother Josephine hugged me and called me her daughter as soon as she met me. All my brothers and sisters hugged me and welcomed me to the family, escorting me to my room and carrying all my bags for me. As soon as I was situated they had me "take tea." This concept was still new to me, but now it is a routine that I have come to cherish. We have tea time when I get home after school, sometimes again with dinner, and then for breakfast, always with a little snack of some type. This is a great time for fellowship and just being present together, whether there is a conversation happening or just a peaceful silence. Here in Africa, silence is a blessing and a sign of friendship and being present with each other. Unlike in America, Ugandans do not feel the need to always fill the silence. This has been a refreshing change for me. My host family has not wasted any time getting me involved in daily routines and chores. My sisters take me to the store to run errands and I have become friends with the local shop owner, Momma Sal. She laughs at my attempts at Luganda (the local language) but really appreciates that I am trying! Now, my family even trusts me to run some of the errands alone since they have taught me the few words necessary to get what I need and bring the right thing home at the right price. They have me help do the dishes, set the table, and make dinner. I love being involved as a real family member, and not just a visitor. They told me right away that I am a part of their family, not a visitor, and that I am welcome to make myself feel at home. I was incredibly humbled by these words and am so thankful to have such a loving family to be a part of. Something that has been a little difficult to get used to is how late my family eats! Usually it is any time between 9:30 and 10:30 at night. And I thought my family at home ate late! But, I am getting used to it and starting to appreciate it because it gives us time to just hang out as a family. Another family routine in my house is fellowship together after dinner. A few times a week we gather as a family and pray, sing, read and talk about the Bible. My homestay father is a very religious man and has been a great spiritual mentor for me thus far with his unending devotion to The Lord.  He and my mom always ask me if I am remembering to pray and I am thankful for their reminders. I look forward to returning home at the end of every school day because I know that I will be accepted, loved, and cared for as I experience this culture in the most intimate way possible. I am so ready to see how this intimate experience with the Ugandan culture will change me over the course of the semester and all the meaningful relationships I will make in the meantime."
                                                                                                       ~Joanna Benner

My Ugandan home

Learning how to do laundry with my homestay mom!


My homestay sister :)
*Photos taken by Joanna Benner


  1. Hey JO! Awesome stuff about your homestay! Thanks for sharing with us all.

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