Det var ikke en let beslutning for Elise, da hun valgte at bo hos en værtsfamilie under sit ophold i Danmark, men selvom hun var nervøs i starten, endte det med at være den helt rigtige beslutning for hende. Vi har interviewet Elise for at høre, hvad der gjorde hendes tid hos værtsfamilien i Lyngby til noget helt særligt.
Elise var studerende på DIS i efteråret 2017, og til dagligt læser hun på California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly).
One of my favorite things about homestay is being introduced to parts of the culture that are really quite ordinary for those living here but quite different and interesting from an outside perspective.
Tell us about your homestay – who are they and what makes them special to you?
My homestay is a family living in Lyngby. I am the fifth member of the household: there is a mother and father, and I have two host sisters, one who is 16 years old and one who is 14 years old. If I had to summarize what makes this family special to me so far, it would be the ability they have had and the effort they have put forth to make me feel comfortable in their home. For me, the prospect of living in someone else’s space in such an intimate way was one of the most nerve-wracking parts of signing up for homestay—not that it doesn’t still come with its challenges (e.g., I am currently on the third day of working up the courage to ask for more hangers).
When I first moved in, however, I sensed their excitement and realized that to them, I am not an imposition but rather an interesting addition to the family unit, and I am appreciative that they have all made this abundantly clear to me so far. For example, I see their willingness to include me in their lives when they plan activities and trips to do with me (canoeing, shopping, and a carnival at my host sister’s school, etc.) and when they engage in conversation with me throughout the day.
Why did you choose homestay?
Homestay was my first choice, although it was not necessarily an automatic or easy decision. I was reluctant to admit that it was what I wanted primarily because of the fear of the unknown—there were so many potential factors that made a homestay so much more intimidating than living with other DIS students in an LLC or Residential Community (my second and third choices).
Ultimately, however, I realized that all the benefits that I could foresee coming from a homestay outweighed the scary parts, and that even those parts might turn out to be healthy challenges. I chose homestay because I loved the idea of being able to come home every evening to a well-established home, where I could curl up on a beanbag chair (I did not predict this part, but it has become one of my favorite rituals) and work on homework, eat a healthy and delicious home-cooked meal, and watch the Danish news with my “family.” I saw my homestay becoming my “home-base,” and my hosts becoming a pseudo-family for me during the inevitable difficult transitions. I saw going on walks in a location slightly removed from the city, and enjoying the company of others while learning things that would not necessarily come from living in the city on my own.
What is the biggest cultural difference so far you have discovered between your homestay here and your family back at home?
Although it’s difficult for me to separate what is a general Danish cultural value versus what is a value specifically of the family in which I’m living, I have definitely noticed differences in the ways in which we tend to function on a daily basis.
For example, the living space of my host family is kept much more clean and tidy than either the home I was raised in or the apartments that I have lived in for college. As a general rule, spaces and countertops seem to be kept more open, and objects all have a very specific place to which they are returned after use. My personal habit is to leave certain things on spaces where they are usually used—I will leave my books on a table, for example, if I plan to use them in the same place the next day. I have to make an extra conscious effort to bring these items back to my room and put them away.
Additionally, deeper cleaning is also done on a very regular basis—back at home, I would generally try to clean once every two weeks or so, and it was a task that would be put off if I was especially busy. Here, cleaning is done as an absolute necessity once or twice a week, where toilets are scrubbed, counters are wiped, towels and sheets changed, and floors are vacuumed. It has definitely been a challenge figuring out where I fit in this process.
The second cultural trait that I have noticed is the ritual around mealtimes. I was not surprised to find that my host family sets the table and eats all together for dinner, but what did surprise me is that this happens at every meal (besides lunches during the week). Because the table is usually set at breakfast time in preparation for everyone to eat, it has been difficult for me to plan my morning routine around wanting to eat with my host family, as I am used to breakfast being more of an independent event.
What is something you or your hosts initiated in this first week together that was a good icebreaker to get to know each other?
I think the best ice breakers when I first arrived were the activities we did together. The very first Sunday when I first arrived was a great opportunity to create a friendly relationship with my host family, and I was lucky to have a host family that was eager to plan a few activities to do together that day. Although I woke up that morning feeling nauseous from jet lag, I realized how important it would be to be accepting of anything that my hosts suggested we do, so I was able to drink water and sleep for about another hour and I no longer felt sick. I am so glad that I summoned the energy to participate, because I think that spending the day with my hosts really set the tone for our entire relationship. We didn’t do anything particularly fancy that day, but even something simple like riding our bikes around Lyngby and showing me the train station made us feel a little more comfortable in each other’s presence and gave us a shared experience to talk about.
What is your favorite small moment you’ve shared with your family so far?
One evening, my host family and I decided to go on a walk in the surrounding areas, just as a way to spend time together and show me some of Lyngby at the same time. When we parked the car and walked a few feet, the path we were on suddenly opened up to a beautiful view of a green field and the edge of the water where people were swimming and a dock allowed you to walk out over the water. We arrived right at sunset, so it was an amazing sight. At that moment, I realized that I was so glad to be in a homestay where I could do something like this with a Danish family—my commute (which I actually tend to look forward to) is well worth living just outside the city so that views and environments such as this one are abundant. It was also a chance to talk to my host family and become a little more comfortable with them; I remember telling my host sister a funny story about an embarrassing moment I had on a bike and connecting with her on an interpersonal level.
Tell us one thing you would recommend to a future student considering choosing a homestay?
In regards to establishing a social life and preventing isolation from other DIS students, I would highly recommend attending all the scheduled orientation events during the first week. At least in my case, DIS seemed to form the schedules based on housing, so I ended up being placed in activities and sessions with other homestay people, and I was often seeing the same people multiple times throughout the week. Meeting a lot of homestay students right away was really helpful because all of us seemed to have the same concerns about making friends, and exchanging stories about our homestay experiences was a great way to connect with each other. I have become closest with the group that I randomly did the DIScovery tour with, and the five of us are even going to Belgium together in a couple weekends. This is all to say that there are ways to combat feelings of isolation and still be able to have a great relationship with your homestay.
What are some things that you would not have had the chance to experience had you not done homestay?
For one, the food. Although I’m sure it is possible to try Danish foods while living in other housing options, nothing quite beats having a Danish meal cooked for you in a home setting by those who do it best. For the most part, the food I’ve eaten at my homestay has not been too jarringly different from what I usually eat at home, but on those nights when we have a dish that is not common in the U.S. I feel very lucky to be introduced to a small part of the culture. This also usually leads to a fun conversation about food and culture, and I always end up learning something (and teaching something too!). Some food that I’ve tried so far is smørrebrød (open-face sandwiches on rye bread), flæskesteg (traditional Danish pork roast), and boller i karry (meatballs in curry—a favorite among Danish children, apparently) among other things.
Additionally, one of my favorite things about homestay is being introduced to parts of the culture that are really quite ordinary for those living here but quite different and interesting from an outside perspective. For example, several weekends ago, I went with my host family to a harvest festival put on by the children at my host sister’s school—it was a really fun morning of eating food made by students, listening to music, playing games, and just witnessing the culture of a school setting in Denmark (a much different experience than in the U.S. in many ways). Birthday parties and dinners with extended family and friends are also good examples of everyday Danish culture that I am exposed to because I’m in a homestay.
Tak til Elise for at dele sin historie med os!
Hør Elise og Olivia fortælle om, hvorfor de valgte at bo hos en værtsfamilie under deres semester på DIS:
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Lige nu søger vi nye værtsfamilier til vores mange studerende. Du behøver ikke have børn eller bo i et stort hus, bare du har lyst til at åbne dit hjem for en nysgerrig ung amerikaner.