Swedish hosts Jennie and Marcus decided to take a chance and host a DIS student for the first time with their kids, Knut (age 12) and Carla (age 10), and four-month old pug, Majken. That’s when they met Emily Colwell, who attends The College of Wooster in Ohio and is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Now over one month into the semester, Emily and her hosts share their experience as a newly formed Swedish-American clan.
Hear from Emily
Where are you living this semester with your Homestay?
Lucky enough for me, I am the closest student to DIS, so we actually live in an apartment building that is just down the street. I walk and it takes about 10 minutes. It is a lovely apartment on the top (seventh) floor of the building.
What was it like to meet your Homestay hosts for the first time? Were you nervous?
My host parents picked me up, while the kids stayed home. I was not too nervous at all to meet them; rather, I was super excited! We had exchanged a couple of emails prior to my arrival, and my excitement kept growing after each one! We greeted each other with big smiles and hugs and it was immediately comforting.
Did your hosts do anything special to welcome you?
Everything they did was so warm and welcoming! They had my room set up for me to move into, complete with flowers and a plate of fruit and Swedish treats.
What adjustments did you make to fit into your hosts’ lifestyle?
I actually feel like I did not have to make too many adjustments to living with my family’s lifestyle. The main one is having to adapt my study schedule a little bit. Rather than going straight home or going to explore the city straight after class, it is instead better that I study and then go home for dinner. At my home school, I’m a silent library studier, so studying at home (with two kids who don’t have much homework when they are home) is tougher—plus when I’m home, I want to be hanging out with the family!
What are your hosts like compared to your family at home? How have you adjusted to this?
At home, I am an only child who has often wished for siblings. The adjustment has been quite easy switching from no siblings to having two younger ones. We like to play games or go on walks together, and it has been so much fun acting as an older sibling to them. I certainly hope they continue to see me this way! Another change for me has been living in an apartment. Both at home and on campus at my home university, I live in a house. Again, there hasn’t been too much to adjust to, but it is certainly different.
The way of living is rather similar, meaning that my family at home and my host family both have relaxed, flexible styles, which is really nice. We haven’t run out of topics to discuss, even though we have been together for more than five weeks, I still find that there are so many stories to share and cultural differences to explore.
Why is living in a Homestay the right choice for you?
Being in a Homestay was the option I was always hoping for and is absolutely the right choice for me for so many reasons. A few years ago, my family and I hosted an international student for a year and loved that experience. We are still close and talk often. I wanted to know what it is like to be on the other side, to be the international student, and hopefully form a relationship that will last a lifetime. In addition to that, it is the best way to get to know what it is truly like to live in Sweden, and learn about their culture and traditions.
What is a typical weeknight with your Homestay like?
On a typical weeknight, I get back home around 16:00 – 18:00 (4:00-6:00pm), talk with whichever family members are home, maybe play a game of Othello with Knut or Carla, and then dinner may be anywhere around 18:00 – 20:00 (6:00-8:00pm), though we typically do eat earlier. It all depends on schedules and after school activities. At this point, I may have some readings to work on, but if not, then I’ll hang out with others by watching TV or playing a game.
What do you do for fun together?
For our first full weekend together, we went to their country house that is about a 1.5 hour drive away. There we enjoyed walks outside around a lake and skiing. Otherwise, our nights may end by watching TV together, and we have plans to visit a museum.
Do you have any funny stories to share from your first month?
Here’s a funny story. On one of the first days I arrived, I was introduced to this ad for Kalles Kaviar (a Swedish classic), so if you want a small glimpse into what our lives have been like, check out their 30-second ad on YouTube here.
This final line of, “it ain’t popular here, booboo, uh huh” has been quoted countless times, nearly every day since watching this video!
Do you have any advice for students living in a Homestay in the future?
For now, I can say you certainly need to be able to compromise, be adaptable, and probably be more willing to spend less time going out at night. So if those aspects are important to you, Homestay may not be your best option. Also, know that this will add one more element for you to balance throughout your time abroad. By this, I mean other students have academics, social life, exploring the city, etc. to consider, but by staying with a family, you also want to ensure you set time aside to spend time with them. However, ask me this again in a couple of months and I’ll have better advice! J (Seriously, please feel free to reach out!)
Hear from Emily’s Hosts: Jennie and Marcus
Is this the first time you have hosted a student?
Yes, it’s the first, but probably not the last time.
Why did your family choose to host a DIS student?
We were thinking it would be a great opportunity to – during a limited period of time – interact with a person with new perspectives and views, bringing in perspectives from a different culture, get some new energy to the family, but also let a young person from another country get a closer look into what it’s like to live in Sweden. Another huge benefit was also to get ourselves and especially our kids to speak English on a daily basis. It’s a fantastic chance to improve the English language. We saw it as a project for the family to engage in, and hopefully get a new friend that we’ll keep in contact with and go visit.
What did you do to prepare for your student to come?
We prepared a room for her, with all things needed, and prepared the kids for sharing room during this time. As our student Emily is a vegetarian, we also decided to try go almost 100% vegetarian ourselves during this period so we started already two weeks before she came to try out new recipes.
What has surprised you about your host student?
Nothing really – she was more or less what we expected, in a positive way! What is surprising in a way is how similar we all are, on a general level.
What do you hope your student takes away from this experience?
A “second family” in Sweden! Friends, culture, and some language skills.
How is your family adjusting to having a new person in your home?
Really well, I would say. For the first few days the kids were “hiding” in their room, probably because they thought it was hard or embarrassing to try and speak English all the time. But after a couple of more days they connected really well and now they are used to speak English and not afraid to say the wrong words. Of course, it is always a bit strange in the beginning to have a “stranger” living in your home, but it took only a week or so until we got used to each other.
What should future hosts know about hosting an American student?
It is a great opportunity!