“This has truly become a home away from home, and it will stay that way for the rest of my life, even if it’s only been four months.”
-Danika, Cornell University
For Homestay hosts Pernille and Kim, it was a completely new experience to welcome their first-ever DIS student, Danika. Read about the experience from both the perspective of local Homestay hosts and DIS student.
The whole family gathered at the beautiful coastline a stone’s throw from the house.
Focus on Everyday Life
If you ask Pernille, one of the most important elements of being a Homestay is that the whole family behave like they always have. Pernille and her family were determined to make Danika part of their everyday life – not just a stranger who lived with them for a semester:
“Danika met a lot of our friends. We went on trips together. We really did our best to introduce Danika to how a Danish family works together in everyday life. We had dinner together in the evenings and the children sometimes had friends over. In the beginning, we spent a lot of time together because some COVID restrictions were still in place, and it was actually really nice because we got to know each other so well from the start.”
The family’s focus on integrating Danika as a family member on an equal footing with everyone else has surely also been of great value to Danika. She emphasizes the importance of being able to come home to the beautiful house in Espergærde and have the opportunity to discuss the things she learned in her DIS classes:
“I learned a lot about Danish culture at DIS, and my Core Course was ‘Cultural Diversity and Integration’. Pernille and Kim are very well oriented and follow Danish politics and everything that goes on. And [my host sister] Salma also has a lot of opinions about things. I really appreciated being able to come home and discuss these things with the family.”
Uno is one of the favorite activities for the whole family.
New Perspectives on Life
Many Homestays appreciate the opportunity to gain new perspectives on Danish culture and one’s own family life, while at the same time learning a lot about how to do similar things in the U.S.: “You also get to see your own life from the outside when you have a new person living in your house. I think that is incredibly valuable”, says Pernille about the cultural exchange.
Moreover, Danika’s stay was of great importance to the family’s children:
“It’s so interesting to get to know a young person from another culture. It’s also a great gift to give your children because they learn a lot about the U.S. and about being young – as well as improving their English.”
Danika did a lot of activities with the family’s two girls, Salma and Rose. With Salma, she went to the Kronborg Castle, among other places, and she took Rose to the Workers’ Museum in Copenhagen – ending the trip with a large ice cream, of course.
Kim also says with a smile that Danika introduced them to new types of food: “We knew how to cook Mexican food and we knew how to make guacamole, but it all tasted of Denmark. Danika showed us how to make real Tex Mex. And we all ate mac ‘n’ cheese!”
While in Denmark, Danika noticed something fundamentally different in the way you structure your everyday life, and this is something she will take with her to the USA:
“I feel like I’m always doing things in the U.S. I think of my day as a to-do list instead of just enjoying it, and I think I’ve learned to relax and be in the moment here; whether it’s been coming home and sitting at the table to draw with Rose or just watching Salma’s TikToks. I feel this is a large part of Danish culture that I have come to know: Slow down and check on those closest to you. I really hope to bring some hygge back to the U.S.”
Danika, Salma, and Rose really enjoyed spending time together.
Family Life Over Travel
Danika has no doubt how much the family in Espergærde has meant to her:
“I know that I will always have a family in Denmark and it’s a little sad to go home. I’ve always wanted sisters and I feel like I have them now. My Homestay really has become a home away from home, and it will be for the rest of my life, even if it has only been four months.”
For some students, it can be tempting to try to visit as many places as possible in Europe while they are abroad. Danika however found out quite quickly that you can’t have it all – and you don’t need to either. Instead, she focused on her relationships with her Homestay and friends:
“In general, I prefer to stay at home and I think my relationship with my Homestay made me hesitant to travel too much because I felt that my time was better spent with people. I think that’s the most important thing about traveling to a new place: creating relationships and getting to know people.”
Drawing together is one way that Danika has bonded with her host sisters.
Learn more about Danika and Homestays: