I’ve talked a lot about my experiences on this blog, so now I’d like to hand the mic over to some other DIS students with valuable insights. I asked friends to share some words on their time here in Sweden to give readers a broader range of perspectives. Interestingly, although this was a general question, they all focused on one aspect: their Homestay hosts. Below is a glimpse into some of their lives and what they emphasize as the most meaningful aspect of their study abroad experience.
Home university: Middlebury College
Interesting fact: Mimi knows every Abba song
“A year ago, if you had asked me if I had plans to go abroad, I would have told you that I wanted to go somewhere in France (preferably Paris or Bordeaux) but live with other Americans (bien sûr), because speaking the language would be enough for me to be culturally immersed. Although I know that sounds like a good plan for some people, and I had thought that that plan sounded like the right one for me, somehow, I ended up in Sweden. I now live in the little town of Saltsjö-Boo right outside of Stockholm with a family of 5, and that has been one of, if not the, best part of studying abroad so far (check out this video of me and my host family!).
I haven’t lived at home since my senior year of high school, and although I have to commute to school every morning, feeling like I am a member of my host family and community around me has been beyond worth it. There have been so many experiences, both big and small, that have impacted me; whether it be going to my host siblings’ sports games, attending an Abba party with my host parents and grandparents (and Caleigh…you should see her dance moves!), or going to Hammarby soccer games and visiting the archipelago with the extended host family, these are all memories that I will cherish forever.
Although I am very grateful for the experiences that my host family has given me, I think I am most grateful for how they have treated me as a member of the family. They’re just as invested as I am in making sure that I get fully immersed in the culture around me by doing things like making me try new foods, sparking (simple) conversations with me in Swedish, and suggesting new places for me and my friends to explore. I could not be more thankful for them, and though I’m sad to have to leave them, I know that we’ll be a part of each other’s lives forever.”
Home university: Princeton University
Interesting fact: Julia once ate surströmming (fermented herring) with her host family
“When friends from home hear that I’m staying with a host family, they often say something like, “Wow, that’s so brave of you!” I appreciate the flattery, but I don’t usually think of my choice as “brave.” Of course, living with a new family in a new country has challenged and stretched me. It’s forced me to rethink some of the simplest parts of the way that I live back in Boston, such as wearing shoes inside, or cutting up all of my food before eating it; and also to rethink some of the bigger things about the culture I come from, like our tendency to rush through anything from a cup of coffee to a meal, rather than savoring togetherness and conversation. But more than challenging me, living with a host family has made my experience here smoother and more comfortable, because it’s given me a home-base and support system. My host mom Annika, 11-year-old brother Melvin, and 10-year-old sister Bonnie (and adorable cat, Ozzy!) have become my best friends here in Sweden; I can’t imagine how different my experience would be without looking forward to coming home to them every day.
Some of my favorite memories here in Stockholm have been simple, cozy nights at home with my host family (fun fact: the Swedes actually have a word for this kind of night, “hemmakväll,” and it literally means “evening at home”). Last Saturday, our “hemmakväll” involved a Swedish tradition I hadn’t yet experienced. We baked a strawberry marzipan cake, made a pot of coffee, lit some candles and all snuggled up together on the sofa (my host mom, 11-year-old host brother, 10-year-old host sister, our neighbor, and I) to watch BingoLotto, a popular Swedish television lottery show. Unfortunately, none of us won a new car or 1 million kronor (or any prize at all, for that matter), but after a long week of traveling, a relaxing evening with my family was all I really needed.”
Home university: Colorado College
Interesting fact: Kyla went to a Justin Bieber concert. In Sweden.
“Studying abroad thus far has been an incredible experience for personal growth. My host family, including my mom, dad, and three younger sisters, has given me an opportunity to not only immerse myself into Swedish language and culture, but to become part of a family in a way I would have never imagined. My host mom wisely put it as having a daughter but with only the “good parts.” I was incredibly hesitant in staying with a host family because I was afraid I would never reach a point where I felt comfortable enough to consider it my own home. Having now lived here for almost three months, I can’t imagine not coming home to my host dad in his apron cooking dinner, my youngest sisters playing charades, and my mom and oldest sister arguing about how late they’ll be to her riding lesson, all the while music from the 70’s and 80’s blasting in the background.
It’s the moments where I’m playing Swedish monopoly with my sisters, or exchanging stories with my mom late into the night, that I am so grateful to have come into the family I did for the semester. I have no doubt that I will stay close with my host family for years to come, and I cannot wait to follow my host sisters (8, 10, and 12) through the years and see where they end up.”