SSEAYP homestays 2019: All about understanding, tolerating and exchanging cultural and social perspectives

From a magnificent and daunting voyage across the ocean on a liner, and the unforgettable opportunity to meet and talk to high ranking officials both in the national and international level, the Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youths Program or simply SSEAYP offers quite a rare experience in defining the definition of the word “Family”, or more specifically “Homestay Family” or “Foster Family”. 


The Homestay program is unarguably one of the main reasons why many participating youths are eager to join and compete for the seat in this exchange. Over the span of a little over 50 days, each participating youth will be welcomed, nurtured, and taken care of by 5 different foster families. One in the land of the rising sun, and the other four are from four of the ten nations of Southeast Asia. The countries that welcome the arrival of the Ship (Nippon Maru) are responsible for their homestay program. 



Each homestay session each respective country will be held for two nights and three days ideally after the Welcome Ceremony organized by each respective government of the host country. The homestay families are normal citizens or locals who volunteer to invest their time and finances in welcoming foreign participating youths. 


Upon arrival, just a few hours before the homestay matching ceremony begins, each youth is given a small card: which contains the name of a foster family, their address and the name of your homestay mates (Participating Youths in that same program as well) from differing nationalities. The desire of choosing the homestay family and your homestay mates is out of your control. The youths and the homestay families are picked at random by the program committee. Right after the homestay matching ceremony, the host family will take the youths to their home where their experience will begin. 


Adapting to the new environment, people, living etiquette, food and religion are some of the ideal situations that the participating youths should expect beforehand. Each host family will have their own way of welcoming the youths in relation to their finances, their job or even their hobbies. At the homestay houses, hosts may cook a lot of local food for the youths, teach the youths how to cook the local food or even how to dine with the local and tradition dinning etiquette. 



When people eat and have various conversations at the same time, I believe that is where the bonding happens, and that is when the exchange between cultures starts to take its form. “Oh, in my country we do have these similar dishes”, one youth said to his host mother. “Wow, this is quite a new taste for me, I wonder how you cooked it. Can you teach me?” another youth told her host father. Conversation during meal time is an important moment during an oversea homestay, even though it can be in a form of body language, hand gestures, or even Google Translation, since not all host families can speak English. 



During the next day, the family will tour and sightsee the youths around the city’s tourism locations (both historical and cultural), show them more local foods and products and teach them local dialogs and languages. After the homestay, the youths and the foster family might exchange gifts with one another to show appreciation for the time and energy they put into each other, and as well as for souvenirs and tokens of remembrance for the youths who have to travel back home. 


The emotional state during the last day, saying goodbye when you do not want to, hugging, the sobbing on the their shoulders, wishing them luck and seeing their faces for the last time as the ship disembarks from the port, where it was docked just days before is indescribable.



Over those 50 days, this situation will happen in a pattern-like manner among all five homestay families. However, it is the sudden change of languages, foods, environment, living conditions and people that are what kick in the experience of Homestay. Saying goodbye to one’s foster family, and saying hello to another foster family just a few days later. They become your family for a short while, but the time and memory you spend together is priceless and will hardly disappear.


That is why SSEAYP is memorable. It is not just the ship it is the people who you unexpectedly bump into as well on it. From strangers, to someone you cannot forget. 

(Note: Homestay in Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar).  

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