When I was 16 years old, my parents supported my dream to live overseas and helped me find a place to go and prepare for my trip. I was welcomed in Budapest, Hungary by a missionary family there. My travels were in two parts: first in the spring for six weeks and then back in the fall for about four months. My mom was hoping that a six week visit would be enough to get the desire to live overseas out of my system. However, even though I missed home while I was gone, I had a desire to go back for a longer time.
My gracious host family has four kids and all were living at home when I was there. At the time, the kids ranged in age from almost three to thirteen years old. I had never lived as the oldest child and I had never lived with so many boys (they had three sons). My duties included assisting the kids with homework, watching the youngest child a couple of days a week, cooking dinner or cleaning on occasion, and also helping out at the library that they ran at the time.
I absolutely loved going into the city on my own via public transportation. Other than having to be aware of any thieves, I was probably safer in Budapest, Hungary than I was at home.
Looking back, I feel that I was definitely "in the moment" for my six week trip and the beginning of my four month trip. However, I started to spend more and more time on Facebook and my computer on the second trip. This caused me to miss home more and miss out on what was right in front of me. I did not go sight-seeing or exploring around the city as much as I would have liked at the beginning so ended up making some mad dashes around the city my last few weeks. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to pretty much shut down Facebook or at least limit my logins to once per week. I would have spent more time in the city, exploring and getting lost.
Fortunately, I did have an amazing host family and a wonderful community while I was there. I made a lot of friends who I still "see" and interact with on occasion via the internet.
As much as I would love to go back, I know it wouldn't be the same. Many of the people I met no longer live there. And the people who are still there have grown up and changed. I have a feeling, however, that I would still be able to jump right back in and get around to my old favorite spots with ease.
Maybe not every high schooler is ready to go overseas for a semester. But going to live with a family was a great way for me to explore some independence at a young age while still having two adults looking out for me. I have heard of a lot of high schoolers spending thousands of dollars to take whirlwind, 1-2 week tours of Europe just to see a few highlights and dine in a few fancy restaurants. I'm so thankful I was able to take my time and really grow and mature while I was there, not just see a few of the touristy highlights. I thought I was quite grown up to be going overseas at such a young age. Turns out, I was super immature. But that experience changed me. And I am so thankful my host parents were patient with me during that time of growth. Like I said above, if I could go back and do things a little differently and live in the moment a bit more, I would. But most of it would stay exactly the same. I will forever cherish the memories I have of that time in Budapest.
And for anyone wondering if this is do-able for them, I assure you it probably is! I spent a little less than $1,000 on each round trip ticket. I lived off of savings that had accumulated from odd jobs and birthday/Christmas cash while there. It definitely helped that I lived with a family and was assisting them with their home and library -- this cut down on living expenses. Definitely look into your options or feel free to ask me questions if you are interested. Don't let finances be the reason you avoid a possible adventure of a lifetime.