Jen, Elon University, lived with hosts in Greater Copenhagen. By the end of the semester, she truly felt she was a part of the family and no longer a guest.
“I knew choosing a Homestay would force me to interact with locals, eat new foods, and sometimes feel uncomfortable, scared, and exhausted. This option terrified and excited me – ultimately that’s why I chose to do it.”
In this interview, Jen discusses her initial thought process when applying for housing and some of the cultural observations she made throughout her semester:
DIS: Tell us about your Homestay – who are they and what makes them special to you?
Jen F.: I absolutely love my Homestay – I am so lucky. I have a host mother and father, and four host siblings. Two of them live at home; my host sister is 15 and my host brother is 13 years old.
The love they have for each other and the genuine interest and kindness they have shown toward me are what make them special. They have welcomed me not only as a guest, but as a family member.
DIS: Why did you choose to live in a Homestay?
JF: I knew I wanted an experience that wasn’t simply to be surrounded by other American students, immediately comfortable and safe. When I chose DIS, I saw there was an option to do a Homestay. I knew it would force me to interact with locals, eat new foods, and sometimes feel uncomfortable, scared, and exhausted. This option terrified and excited me – ultimately, that’s why I chose to do it.
DIS: What is one of the biggest cultural differences you have discovered between your Homestay and your family back at home?
JF: Besides the language barrier and the table etiquette (I cannot for the life of me figure out how to eat with my left hand – the Danes use cutlery with both to eat!), the biggest difference I have found is how direct Danish culture is. My host parents and siblings talk about real issues – like politics, drinking, what it means to be a teenager, and the policy of open communication is really cool to see. It was jarring at first, but I have found that it fosters trust and honesty in relationships. I hope to bring a little piece of this back to America.
DIS: What is something you or your hosts initiated in this first week together that was a good icebreaker to get to know each other?
JF: My host family is big on communication; family meals are really important, and everybody debriefs about their day. It was nice to know that no matter how hectic things got during orientation, there was always this one meal where we were united. I also accompany my host family on errands and little adventures so I can talk to them and get to know them better.
DIS: What is your favorite small moment you’ve shared with your family so far?
JF: My favorite small moment happened the day I arrived. It was my host mom’s 40th birthday, so I got in at 12:30, and 6 hours later, there were 40 guests in the home. It was country-western themed, so everyone had costumes, and there was music, a singer, bartender, and lots of food. I felt so privileged to have been allowed to be a part of my host mom’s special night – I couldn’t have asked for a better way to begin to learn about Danish culture!
DIS: What is one thing you would recommend to a future student considering choosing a Homestay?
JF: To reflect on why you are choosing it. Weighing the pros and cons is so important – and if Homestay is too far outside your comfort zone that it will impede your ability to enjoy life abroad, that’s okay! But if you want to fully experience a new culture, and be pushed to grow and mature beyond your wildest imagination, a Homestay is an incredible experience. You don’t just live with Danes, you become a part of the family. And that is something I am forever thankful for.
Hear Jen and Josh Talk about Living in a Homestay
How do you greet your host for the very first time – do you go in for the hug or a handshake? Hear Jen and Josh talk about stories of their Homestays: