Landers, Bucknell University, lives in Lidingö during her semester, an island just outside of Stockholm’s city center. We asked Landers about her favorite moments spent with her hosts and what makes living in a Homestay so unique.
DIS: Hi Landers! Tell us about your Homestay – who are they and what makes them special to you?
Landers M.: My host family consists of a mom, a dad, and three sisters. The oldest sister, who is 18, is currently not living at home and instead studying abroad in Kenya, which is very exciting! The other two girls are 16 and 14.
My host dad is currently a vice principal at a school in our town but previously, he was a language teacher, so he’s been very helpful and helps me learn Swedish for my Swedish Language & Culture class. My host mom is a consultant and my two siblings are both in school! The youngest host sister plays basketball and it’s very fun to go watch her games.
My host family is, without a doubt, my favorite part of studying abroad. They’ve welcomed me with open arms and I feel like a part of the family. We spend a lot of our dinner time discussing current events and politics, in addition to what went on in our days. It’s so homey and makes coming home from school very enjoyable.
My host family is, without a doubt, my favorite part of studying abroad. They have welcomed me with open arms and I feel like a part of the family… It’s so homey and makes coming home from school very enjoyable.”
DIS: Why did you choose to live in a Homestay?
LM: I thought that this option would be the best way for me to become integrated with Swedish culture. I wanted the chance to try classic Swedish meals and thought it would also be a way for me to improve my language skills.
Additionally, I was hoping for younger siblings because at home, I don’t have any younger siblings. Finally, I really just wanted a comfortable living place that I could call my home. I went to boarding school and I wanted to be in a family environment rather than a dorm room for the seventh year in a row.
DIS: What is one of the biggest cultural differences you have discovered between your Homestay and your family back at home?
LM: How important dinner was. With my family back at home, dinner isn’t always the most extravagant meal and we often go out to dinner. With my Homestay, though, dinner is definitely an exciting part of the night. Everything is made from scratch (nothing from boxes like back in the States) and sometimes, more than one person pitches in. The conversation around the dinner table is lively and everyone is involved – no one is on their phones. It’s been a great way for me to connect with my host family.
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?
LM: The first full weekend I was here, my hosts took me ice skating. This was a huge deal for me because I weirdly have a fear of ice skating. We went ice skating nearby where we live and to my surprise, it wasn’t on a rink but a lake. My family is super athletic so they were all incredible skaters but one of my host sisters stayed with me as I clung on to her and together, we skated around the lake! Although it was initially terrifying, it got me out of my comfort zone and made me bond with my family. I think getting over my fear was a great way for me to feel more connected to my host family.
DIS: What is your favorite small moment you’ve shared with your family so far?
LM: Watching movies with my host family. Sometimes if the girls and I don’t have a lot of work, we’ll turn on a movie in the TV room and by the end of the movie, the whole family will be gathered around the screen. We’ll be sharing snacks and candy and it’s a small and pretty normal moment, but one that’s really special to me. We’ve been able to share movies that are important to each of us and it’s just something I really treasure.
DIS: What is an example of a cultural insight that you have gained that your Homestay has taught you?
LM: How important dinner parties are. You only invite close friends over to your house and it’s typically friends that you’ve known for a very long time, perhaps since childhood. It’s a pretty big occasion and the home-cooked meals are superb. The dinner parties also tend to last a while – don’t expect it to be over before midnight! Dinner parties have been a great way for me to meet people that are very important to my host family and also a really nice way for me to be integrated with the culture.
DIS: What is an experience you’ve had living with your Homestay that you couldn’t have had if you did not live with them?
LM: This is a really tough question because there are so many favorite moments from my time in Stockholm that couldn’t have occurred if I didn’t live with my host family.
A moment that really stands out to me is when I was able to go to my youngest host sister’s basketball games. I played basketball all throughout high school so we were able to bond over a shared love of the game. Seeing her play was really special and I was so incredibly proud of her each time I watched. This is obviously something I couldn’t have partaken in if I weren’t a part of a family.
DIS: What is one thing you would recommend to a future student considering choosing a Homestay?
LM: I would really recommend a student considering a Homestay to come in with an open mind. You’re going to have to be flexible and willing to compromise – you are stepping into a house that isn’t your own so rules and customs might be different than what you’re used to! That shouldn’t scare you away though, as I’ve found the rules and customs to be pretty similar to what I’m used to at home.