Elise, Cal Poly, lived in Lyngby during her semester, a town located in the northern suburbs of the greater Copenhagen area. Hear about Elise’s experience living in a Homestay:
DIS: Tell us about your Homestay – who are they and what makes them special to you?
Elise M: My Homestay is a family living in Lyngby. I am the fifth member of the household: There is a mother and father, and I have two host sisters, one who is 16 years old and one who is 14 years old. If I had to summarize what makes this family special to me so far, it would be the ability they have had and the effort they have put forth to make me feel comfortable in their home. For me, the prospect of living in someone else’s space in such an intimate way was one of the most nerve-wracking parts of signing up for Homestay.
When I first moved in, however, I sensed their excitement and realized that to them, I am not an imposition, but rather an interesting addition to the family unit, and I am appreciative that they all made this abundantly clear to me. For example, I see their willingness to include me in their lives when they plan activities and trips to do with me (canoeing, shopping, and a carnival at my host sister’s school, etc.) and when they engage in conversation with me throughout the day.
DIS: Why did you choose to live in a Homestay?
EM: Homestay was my first choice, although it was not necessarily an automatic or easy decision. Ultimately, I realized that all the benefits that I could foresee coming from a Homestay outweighed the scary parts and that even those parts might turn out to be healthy challenges.
I chose Homestay because I loved the idea of being able to come home every evening to a well-established home, where I could curl up on a beanbag chair (I did not predict this part, but it has become one of my favorite rituals) and work on homework, eat a healthy and delicious home-cooked meal, and watch the Danish news with my “family.”
I saw my Homestay becoming my “home-base,” and my hosts becoming a pseudo-family for me during the inevitable difficult transitions. I went on walks in a location slightly removed from the city and enjoyed the company of others while learning things that I would not necessarily grasp from living in the city on my own.
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?
EM: The very first Sunday when I first arrived was a great opportunity to create a friendly relationship with my host family, and I was lucky to have a host family that was eager to plan a few activities to do together that day. Although I woke up that morning feeling nauseous from jet lag, I realized how important it would be to be accepting of anything that my hosts suggested we do, so I was able to drink water and sleep for about another hour and I no longer felt sick. I am so glad that I summoned the energy to participate because I think that spending the day with my hosts really set the tone for our entire relationship.
We didn’t do anything particularly fancy that day, but even something simple like riding our bikes around Lyngby and showing me the train station made us feel a little more comfortable in each other’s presence and gave us a shared experience to talk about.
DIS: What is your favorite small moment you’ve shared with your family so far?
EM: One evening, my host family and I decided to go on a walk in the surrounding areas, just as a way to spend time together and show me some of Lyngby at the same time. When we parked the car and walked a few feet, the path we were on suddenly opened up to a beautiful view of a green field and the edge of the water where people were swimming and a dock allowed you to walk out over the water. We arrived right at sunset, so it was an amazing sight. At that moment, I realized that I was so glad to be in a Homestay where I could do something like this with a Danish family—my commute (which I actually tend to look forward to) is well worth living just outside the city so that views and environments such as this one are abundant.
It was also a chance to talk to my host family and become a little more comfortable with them; I remember telling my host sister a funny story about an embarrassing moment I had on a bike and connecting with her on an interpersonal level.
DIS: Tell us one thing you would recommend to a future student considering choosing a homestay?
EM: I would highly recommend attending all the scheduled orientation events during the first week. At least in my case, DIS seemed to form the schedules based on housing, so I ended up being placed in activities and sessions with other Homestay people, and I was often seeing the same people multiple times throughout the week.
Meeting a lot of Homestay students right away was really helpful because all of us seemed to have the same concerns about making friends, and exchanging stories about our Homestay experiences was a great way to connect with each other.
DIS: What are some things that you would not have had the chance to experience had you not done a Homestay?
EM: For one, the food. Nothing quite beats having a Danish meal cooked for you in a home setting by those who do it best. For the most part, the food I’ve eaten at my Homestay has not been too jarringly different from what I usually eat at home, but on those nights when we have a dish that is not common in the U.S., I feel very lucky to be introduced to a small part of the culture. This also usually leads to a fun conversation about food and culture, and I always end up learning something (and teaching something too!).
Some foods that I’ve tried so far: Smørrebrød (open-face sandwiches on rye bread), flæskesteg (traditional Danish pork roast), and boller i karry (meatballs in curry—a favorite among Danish children, apparently) among other things.
Additionally, one of my favorite things about a Homestay is being introduced to parts of the culture that are really, quite ordinary for those living here but quite different and interesting from an outside perspective.
For example, I went with my host family to a harvest festival put on by the children at my host sister’s school. It was a fun morning of eating food made by students, listening to music, playing games, and just witnessing the culture of a school setting in Denmark (a much different experience than in the U.S. in many ways). Birthday parties and dinners with extended family and friends are also good examples of everyday Danish culture that I have been exposed to because I’m in a Homestay.
Video Feature: Elise and Olivia Talk about Living in a Homestay
Ever thought about what separates a Homestay from other housing options? Elise and Olivia share their experiences about how living in a Homestay has shaped her abroad experience.