Hej and happy Easter! It’s currently Easter break for DIS students, so we’ve been off since Wednesday and return to class tomorrow. I just returned from a trip to Prague on Saturday and spent yesterday and today enjoying the sunshine and warm weather in Copenhagen. It feels so nice to finally be able to shed my winter coat!
As I realize that there are only 3 weeks left in the semester, I wanted to make sure that I wrote a post about one of the most integral aspects of my study abroad experience: my homestay. DIS offers several different housing options, so it can be quite nerve-wracking to choose your top three when filling out the housing application. My home school only allows us to choose housing options that enable us to live with Danes (i.e. homestay, kollegium, rented room, or folkhøjskole), so that made it a bit easier to narrow down my options. Even so, choosing to live in a homestay felt like a bit of a risk, and prior to meeting my host family, I was filled with doubts about whether it was actually the right housing option for me. After over 3 months, I can safely say that it was indeed the right option! However, it hasn’t been a perfect experience, so I wanted to address some frequently asked questions about homestay life:
*Disclaimer: I can only speak for my own personal experience with my host family. Every person’s homestay experience is different, so please don’t take my answers to be universal!*
Will living in a homestay limit my independence?
This was probably one of the biggest concerns I had when I found out I got placed in a homestay. The simple answer is no–you are an adult and should expect to be treated as such. My host family doesn’t have any rules regarding curfew, only that I let them know if I won’t be home for dinner or plan to spend the night at a friend’s place. However, it’s important to keep in mind that living with a family is different from living on your own or with other students. You should expect to plan your daily schedule around your host family’s daily schedule (e.g. being home in time for dinner, coordinating bathroom time in the morning, etc.). It’s not like moving back home with your parents, though–I still have a great deal of independence and freedom.
How is the food situation?
DIS provides host families with a subsidy to cover the extra costs of cooking for another person. Each homestay is different, but I’ve been very satisfied with the food situation in mine. I’m a vegetarian and my host family isn’t, which I was a bit concerned about. However, they have been incredibly accommodating by making a vegetarian option if they have meat and asking me if there’s anything I need before they go grocery shopping. We actually don’t eat much traditional Danish food, though I’ve tried rugbrød and lots of Danish candy!
Does living in a homestay make it hard to meet other DIS students?
Again, the simple answer is no, but it is a bit more difficult than it would be in an RC (residential community) or kollegium. DIS works hard to connect homestay students with one another by establishing homestay networks (groups of ~10-15 homestay students living within a few kilometers of one another) and providing funding for homestay network gatherings. However, you do need to make an effort to reach out to others in your homestay network and generally take initiative to make plans with people. Friend groups won’t come as naturally as they do when you live in an apartment-style setting with other students, so it is often up to you to take initiative. This can be challenging, especially if you’re more introverted, but I’ve found that I appreciate having designated time away from my peers and feel less pressured to socialize/go out all the time.
Will the distance/commute limit my social life?
Again, the distance and length of commute vary depending on each homestay. I live about 35 km north of Copenhagen and my commute is around 40 minutes (door to door). It sounds far, but I actually don’t mind it–I live a 3-minute walk from the train station, and the train ride itself is a nice time to read, listen to music, and/or sleep. While I can’t come home in between classes and have to make plans with friends ahead of time, I think it’s been worth the tradeoff. However, whether the distance is worth it for you depends on what your priorities are. If you prioritize spending most of your free time with other DIS students or in the city, then a homestay might not be right for you.
What was it like adjusting to living with a family of complete strangers? What if we don’t get along?
While I’ve gotten along well with my host family from the start, it has still been a considerable adjustment. My host family dynamic is definitely different from my own family’s dynamic, so the first few weeks were filled with moments of uncertainty about how I should fit myself into their daily lives. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s important to speak up if you have questions or are uncomfortable with something. Living in a homestay can feel like a leap of faith, and it works out better for some than it does for others. Luckily, it’s worked out for me, but the DIS housing team is available to those who do encounter issues.
That’s about all I can think of for FAQs! Living in a homestay has significantly shaped my study abroad experience, so if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out 🙂
Now, wish me luck with the final stretch of the semester. Vi ses!!