This semester, Caroline from Bates College was matched up to live in a Homestay with Louise and her 11 year-old son, Christian. They live in Klampenborg, a nearby suburb north of Copenhagen.
In her interview, Caroline talks about how she made the decision to live in a Homestay — and why she’s yet to regret it. From unexpected dance parties to eating flødeboller in the park, we were lucky to get an inside look at Caroline’s experience:
DIS: Tell us about your Homestay. Who are they and what makes them special to you?
Caroline C.: I am staying in a Homestay with Louise and her 11 year-old son Christian. Louise is a massage therapist, a nutritionist, and a wonderful mother. She works from home a lot of the time, which has been really nice because I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her so far.
Louise and I talk for hours about our families and she has been so welcoming. She was actually an exchange student herself in Australia when she was in high school, so she knows what it’s like to be away from home and experience a totally new culture.
I am their first exchange student, so it’s been really fun getting to know them both. I’ve also never had a younger brother and I’ve had a blast playing soccer and hanging out with Christian! I absolutely adore him!
DIS: Why did you choose to live in a Homestay?
CC: In the beginning, I was really grappling with the decision of choosing between the Homestay and Kollegium options. I felt like the Kollegium offered me the opportunity to meet a lot of friends and be social, but the Homestay felt more like a home away from home.
I actually reached out to a prior DIS student from Bates College and he told me about his Homestay experience. One of the things that stood out to me was that his family took him to places that only the locals really know about and he got to experience a lot of culture that way.
In the end, I chose a Homestay because family is something that has always been a top priority for me. I knew that I was going to miss my family from home, yet I wanted to have the opportunity to explore a new culture and be able to travel and study in a new place. I feel like I can really be more of myself in an actual home and so the best of both worlds for me was a Homestay.
A lot of students want to be social and meet friends easily, so they may think a Kollegium is better for that, but actually, a Homestay is, too! I’ve met so many friends who live near me and who are in other Homestays. I am also more of an introvert but have had no problem making friends and putting myself out there. I wanted the opportunity to be with a Danish family because the best way to immerse myself culturally is through directly hearing the Danish language, eating meals and talking about our days at dinner, and learning about history directly from a family that has lived here for their whole lives. I thank my friend from home for inspiring me and I hope to inspire many others to choose a Homestay as well.
DIS: What is something you or your hosts initiated during the first week that was a good icebreaker to get to know each other?
CC: The first couple of days in my Homestay, Louise brought me around Taarbaek and showed me her favorite places. We went to The Bread Station in Charlottenlund where she gets her bread and introduced me to the owner. We also went grocery shopping together and she had me pick out a few things I liked, which was so nice of her.
A good icebreaker for us was when we went on an hour walk in the deer garden together (Dyrehaven). The walk forced us to get past the surface level conversation and to dive deeper into talking about who we are as people. It was a beautiful day, and I felt more comfortable after because I was able to share a lot already with my host mom.
DIS: And what happened when you met Christian?
CC: When Christian and I met for the first time, I was really nervous because he didn’t speak much English to me and only really spoke Danish to Louise. However, I downloaded the Duolingo app to learn more Danish with him and it ended up being a nice icebreaker moment because he was helping me play the app and it was a way for us to communicate.
And just the other day, on his way home from soccer practice, he told his mom he was going to speak English that night. He only spoke English and we were so surprised! It really made me smile and he has really gotten a lot better at it. Christian is with us every other week, and as soon as he comes home and sees me he runs to give me the biggest hug and smiles so wide. He has never had a sibling before and I love being a big sister to him.
DIS: What is your favorite small moment you’ve shared with your family so far?
CC: When I got back from class the other day, Louise told me Christian wanted to put on a show for us. As I was taking off my shoes near the door, Christian bursts into the kitchen and starts dancing to the song ‘Feels’ by Calvin Harris. The best part about it was he was wearing his striped bathrobe, dinosaur slippers, Louise’s sunglasses, a huge gold watch, and carrying a soft baseball bat. He is so goofy and we were all laughing while he was sporting some great dance moves! After that, we had a nice walk on the beach and found a beautiful spot to eat some amazing flødeboller !
DIS: What is one thing you would recommend to a future student considering choosing a Homestay?
CC: Keep an open mind about the Homestay experience. You might want a Kollegium, but instead, get placed in a Homestay. You will have a wonderful time, I guarantee it.
As a vegetarian, I was really worried that I wouldn’t find accommodations here, and yet my host mom is vegetarian as well so it really was a perfect match! There are a wide range of families that host students every year and everyone I have talked to so far loves their host family.
I also think that there are some myths about Homestays that need to be debunked.
#1: If you are in a Homestay, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are further away than the students in the Kollegiums. I am about 30 minutes away and I know some people that are 40-minute bike ride from their Kollegium. Don’t just choose a Kollegium because you think it is going to be closer! Part of the Danish culture is commuting to school or work, and you are going to have to do it either way and it is a really great way to get some fresh air.
#2: If you are in a Homestay, you can and will make friends! A great way to break the ice with someone is to discuss living situations. You can share what your hosts are like and what it’s like to live in a Danish household! Most everyone living in Kollegiums, Residential Communities, Living & Learning Communities, and other Homestays are interested in hearing about how your experiences have been. It’s easy to meet people left and right!
Are you thinking about living in a Homestay for your semester with DIS?