Jiyu, Vanderbilt University, lives in Bromma during her semester, just west of Stockholm’s city center. In an interview with Jiyu, she lets us into the experience of living in a Homestay, and how it made her feel right at home in Sweden.
DIS: Hi Jiyu! Tell us about your Homestay – who are they and what makes them special to you?
Jiyu C.: My Homestay is made up of my host parents Per and Annika, and three host brothers Vilhelm, Axel, and Olle. My host parents work full time and my host brothers are in gymnasium (highschool), middle school, and elementary school, respectively. They are all very special to me. From day one, they made it clear to me that they wanted me to feel at home and since then, they have done nothing but to make me feel like I’m a part of the family.
We eat dinner together almost every night, go on walks together, help each other with Swedish and English, tease each other, bake together, and we’re almost done with a whole TV series. They are so welcoming, kind, and fun, I could not have asked for a better home away from home while in Stockholm. I’m also excited because they are moving to New York this summer so I’ll be able to see them in a few months and our relationship can continue!
DIS: Why did you choose to live in a Homestay?
JC: My own family has hosted students before and I wanted to experience the other end of that relationship. I also wanted to immerse myself in Swedish culture as much as possible, and learn the language outside of the classroom. Lastly, I really wanted to find that home away from home, during what I expected to be a really vulnerable, challenging, but amazing semester.
DIS: What is one of the biggest cultural differences you have discovered between your Homestay and your family back at home?
JC: My host family and I rarely ever go out to eat, but we always cook dinner at home together. That’s not something I wasn’t really used to because at home, usually my mom cooks for all of us and we eat out more frequently. I think it has to do with the fact that it is more expensive to eat out in Stockholm.
It’s the most impactful part of study abroad that I will take with me and it’s so hard to put it into words.
DIS: What is something you or your hosts initiated in the first week together that was a good icebreaker to get to know each other?
JC: On my first day in Stockholm, my host mom took me on a walk around a beautiful lake in our neighborhood and showed me around. We talked a lot about what I’m interested in, what motivated me to study abroad and choose Stockholm, but also about what she does and the family. She’s always been so welcoming and loving and going out of her way to help me and it was the best way to spend my first day in town.
DIS: What is your favorite small moment you’ve shared with your family so far?
JC: My boyfriend came to visit me in Stockholm, and my host family was really excited to meet him, which made me even happier that he was coming! We cooked Korean and Chinese food and we all just sat around the table for hours talking. It was just super fun and relaxed and it really did feel like I was bringing my boyfriend home to meet the family.
DIS: What is an example of a cultural insight that you have gained that your Homestay has taught you?
JC: My host family has taught me a lot of Swedish language, mostly because my youngest host brother doesn’t speak any English. By speaking with him and listening to their conversations, I’ve learned a lot more Swedish than I could have in the classroom. They’ve also showed me that Swedes are some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever met who love showing off how amazing at English they are!
DIS: What is an experience you’ve had living with your Homestay that you couldn’t have had if you hadn’t lived with them?
JC: If I had not lived with a Homestay, I would have never attended someone’s 18th birthday party, which is a pretty big deal in Sweden, hung out with little six-year-old boys who can’t speak any English, or met amazing Swedish people generally. Through my host family, I met a lot of their friends and was able to take part in traditions and celebrations. This was truly invaluable to me, as it made Sweden feel like home and more personable.
DIS: What is one thing you would recommend to a future student considering choosing a Homestay?
JC: Do it! It was the best decision I made about coming abroad and they are people I will cherish forever. I learned so much about what it is like to study and live in Sweden through their perspective, built invaluable relationships with them and with their friends, saw what Swedish middle school is like, and really felt like I was a part of something bigger than I could come home to every day. It’s the most impactful part of study abroad that I will take with me and it’s so hard to put it into words. Being a Homestay student is something you just have to experience to understand.