In this post I wanted to talk about an integral part of the DIS experience for many students, which is the homestay option for housing. Out of all the options DIS students get prior to arrival in the program for residence, the homestay is the most popular and it was all the buzz around the experience that prompted me to choose it as my first-choice option as well. Living in dorms at college in the US was a drastically different experience for me three and half years ago, and I saw the homestay option as a chance to get out of that bubble and spend a semester with a proper home base, and reconnect with many of the aspects of a comfortable family life that you come to miss at college. And as many other previous students have reported, it was definitely the right call!
My ‘värdfamilj’ lives about 45 minutes north of Stockholm in Norrviken, near Sollentuna in a charming little community. Together with my host mom, host sister and two host brothers, it’s been really easy to join the family and they have been nothing short of incredible in accommodating me and my acclimatization to Sweden and its language and culture. Living in a host family means putting more time and effort into life outside of school work, and committing to household chores and routines that can become easily forgotten at college, but the payoff is huge. Eating big dinners as part of a family, taking excursions and joining in with family traditions and activities makes the transition easy and, personally, is also a great alleviation from homesickness. Despite the commitment, that doesn’t mean I don’t have time or freedom to do my own thing with friends, however. The homestay relationship is there to be defined and finding the right balance has been crucial in making the experience a success!
My host family are a busy bunch, but I’ve definitely had the most fun with them at home, engaging in daily activities like cooking and watching movies. One of my host brothers is quite the budding young chef and it’s been great to learn from him in the kitchen, and a great way to practice some Swedish ingredients as well! The best part about them, though, is that they have a big family who live right around the corner from us! In that way, it can feel like I have two host families, and with them also hosting DIS students, it’s helped to break down the barriers that may exist when you’re not living in the city with lots of other students. Nights bonding over movies, video games and meals with this extended family has come to be one of the highlights of my time in Sweden, and fits somewhat with the “Bonusfamiljen” culture of the country reflected in the popular Netflix show here.
So for those considering the homestay life, I offer this advice: in reality, there are drawbacks- a longer commute to school each day, the feeling of isolation from students in dorms, and of course cultural barriers. But the experience is so unique and so enriching that these become almost irrelevant compared to the positives. Of course, the experience is what you make of it and it’s not the right fit for all. The horror stories of previous homestay students told by my host family attest to that! But I know that I definitely made the right choice when I choose this option.
And to finish off this post, let’s introduce the flag of Sollentuna, the municipality in which I live, because who knew they had one?! The design features three traditional Viking-style vessels and the classic Swedish colors.
See you all next time, at the end of travel week one!