Homestay FAQ

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!

Homemade pizza!

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!!

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Hygge Highlights

Hej! It’s been hard to keep up with my goal of blogging every week, but I wanted to make sure I posted something before leaving for my travel week this weekend. The semester is flying by, which is both exciting and nerve-wracking! Copenhagen has really begun to feel like home.

As I’m sure many of you know, Denmark is known for its “hygge,” which entails “a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment” (thanks, Wikipedia). I though I’d share with you all some hyggeligt experiences I’ve had here in Denmark:

Hygge Dinner

Last week, I helped my friend Amelia host a “hygge dinner” at her homestay. We live in the same homestay network, and DIS gave us money to purchase groceries and cook a meal for people in our network. The dinner was a success (we didn’t burn anything!) and I even had the opportunity to do an Instagram takeover on the DIS account, so check out @dis.copenhagen on Instagram to see more 🙂 (archived under “Housing” stories).

Tivoli

Last week, some members of my homestay network and I also went to Tivoli, which is an amusement park right in the middle of Copenhagen. Winter in Tivoli was magical (but cold!)–we rode rollercoasters, drank hot chocolate, and admired all the lights. I can’t wait to go back when it reopens in April!

Finally, I don’t know if this counts as hygge (can you have hygge by yourself? hm…), but I recently discovered that I live a short walk away from the sea. I went for a run there this morning, which provided beautiful views and a nice break from being indoors 🙂

Well that’s all for now – vi ses!

Week 2: Host family, friends, and field studies

Hej!!

It’s my second week here in Copenhagen and my first full week of classes. I’ve been settling in and getting more comfortable with my surroundings–I’m finally able to walk from the train station to my classes without using Google Maps, which is definitely an accomplishment!

I thought I’d update all of you on three core aspects of my study abroad experience so far: my host family, new friends, and my classes.

Host Family

My host family has been a wonderful constant in my daily life here in Denmark. I will admit that I was initially hesitant about living in a homestay because of the commute, possible restraints on my independence, and the chance that my host family and I wouldn’t get along. I’m happy to say that these concerns have not been a problem! My host family has been nothing but warm and welcoming, I am treated like an adult, and the commute has actually been quite nice. I live a 3-5 minute walk from the train station and from there, it’s about a 30 minute train ride into the city. I use that time to relax, listen to music, and watch the transition from city to countryside from the window.

One thing I was worried about was being isolated from other DIS students. While living in a homestay does mean that you will not be eating and hanging out with your fellow DIS students as regularly as those living in kollegiums, residential communities, and LLCs will, it is a unique opportunity to experience Danish family life. On a typical weekday, I’ll come home from classes around 5, relax for a bit, help my host parents make dinner, eat and talk for an hour or so, and then watch TV together (anything ranging from Black Mirror to the handball world championship).

DIS also does a good job of connecting homestay students through homestay networks. My network had its “jumpstart event” this Saturday. Each family brought a homemade cake and we spent a couple hours talking and getting to know one another.

So much cake! The one with the Danish flags was a carrot cake made by my host mom.

Friends

There are at least 20 other students from Smith studying abroad in Copenhagen, but I’m not close with any of them. It seems like a lot of people here are studying abroad with friends from their home schools, but I think an important part of studying abroad is to leave your comfort zone and meet new people. My homestay network has been great–this weekend, we visited Christiania together. Christiania is an alternative community in Copenhagen that was founded in 1971 in an abandoned military area. The residents have their own community rules and are somewhat autonomous from the government. The community is open to visitors and was really cool to see.

We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but we found a mural outside that provided a great photo backdrop 🙂

Classes

I’m taking 5 classes here at DIS:

  • Religious Mythos & Philosophical Logos (my core course)
  • Kierkegaard’s Authorship (taught at the University of Copenhagen to a combination of American and Danish students)
  • Health Economics & Health Policy
  • Trade of People: Modern-Day Forced Labor
  • Danish Language & Culture

All of my classes have been really interesting so far! The academic setup here isn’t too different from what I’m used to back at Smith–the classes are relatively small and tend to be discussion-based. A great thing about DIS classes is that they all have a field study component! I had my first field study yesterday for my Health Economics class. We visited Danske Regioner (Danish Regions), which is the interest organization for the five regions in Denmark (similar to the states in the U.S.). We were treated to coffee & croissants and listened to presentations about healthcare lobbying and ongoing changes to the hospital system in Denmark. It was interesting to learn about the Danish healthcare system and some of the healthcare policy debates currently taking place in Denmark.

That’s all for now! I’ll leave you with this beautiful photo of Nyhavn at dusk:

Recap of the first 5 days

Hej!!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been in Copenhagen for 5 days! The past few days have been so busy that I feel like I’ve been here for weeks. Here’s what I’ve been up to for the past few days:

Saturday, January 12

I took a red eye flight from JFK to Copenhagen and landed at around 12:30 pm. After breezing through customs and baggage claim, I went across the street to a hotel where DIS staff greeted us and led us to a room where homestay & rented room students had a short orientation. Afterward, we all anxiously awaited the arrival of our host families. After waiting for about 30 minutes, one of the DIS staff members called my name and I went into the lobby area to meet my host family! The family consists of my host dad Morten, my host mom Mette, my 18-year old host brother Mads, and my 21-year old host brother Martin (who no longer lives at home). They are all very sweet and make me feel at home! Their house is in a small town called Nivå, about a 30-minute train ride north of central Copenhagen. I have my own room, and the house is very cozy, minimalist, and hyggeligt. 

My room
Dining area

Sunday, January 13

I had a much-needed opportunity to sleep in. After a refreshing 10 hours of sleep, my host family showed me how to take the train to Copenhagen and showed me around the city center. We got coffee at a market in the city center and found some of the DIS buildings before heading back home and relaxing for the rest of the day.

Monday, January 14

First day of orientation! I had to wake up early to make it to an 8 am opening ceremony, where we heard from the executive director of DIS, some former DIS students, and a Danish singer named Elisha. Afterward, some friends from my homestay network and I went to Studenterhuset, a student-run café for students attending school in Copenhagen, for a free chocolate croissant.

Free croissant!
Inside Studenterhuset

In the afternoon, I had a housing workshop with the other students in my homestay network. DIS does a great job of connecting homestay students living near each other by organizing an event at the beginning of the semester for us to get to know each other and providing funding for group activities.

Tuesday, January 15

More orientation! I went to the Danish Immigration Ministry to get my biometrics taken for my visa, hung out at a cozy café called The Living Room, and attended some orientation workshops in the afternoon.

Wednesday, January 16

I had my core course orientation in the morning. I’m in the Religious Mythos & Philosophical Logos core course, and we ended the class session by taking a walk through a nearby park, looking at statues of Greek gods, and eating croissants – I can’t complain 🙂 I spent the afternoon doing some solo exploring and stumbled upon some beautiful sights:

I’m posting this a day late so it’s actually Day 6 in Denmark! I had my first day of classes today and am feeling pretty good about the semester, albeit not quite ready to get back into school mode yet 🙂

Vi ses,

Dana