This article was written by Stella Joo ’15, an Education Abroad Peer Advisor who studied in Florence this past Fall
Before leaving to study abroad in Florence, Italy for a semester, the idea of living with a homestay family has been stuck at the top of my head for weeks. I was not so much worried about adjusting to the new culture or learning a new language because I have had lived in foreign countries before – I was actually looking forward to that experience. On the other hand, living with a family that I have no information on and do not even speak the same language? Not so much… As if the school already knew about how worried I had been about living with a host family, Syracuse University in Florence decided to keep the information about homestay a secret and a surprise until the day of the orientation. The fact that I will not know anything about the homestay until the day of kept me even more anxious and nervous about the homestay experience.
My view on homestay changed completely after spending a semester abroad. Now, I am so glad that I chose a program that offered the homestay experience. I was placed in a homestay just a 5-minute walk away from school, with a host mom and her son, along with an American student. The apartment that I had been placed in was actually quite spacious. My roommate, or rather my housemate, and I were each given a separate bedroom with a bathroom inside. We were very lucky to be given enough independence and privacy, but also enough interaction with the family on a daily basis.
Living with an Italian family has been one of my favorite aspects of studying abroad. My host mom and brother not only helped me adjust to the new city by taking me around Florence on weekends, but also helped me learn Italian through dinner time conversations and with homework after dinner and on weekends. Going grocery shopping together to local outdoor markets from time to time and cooking dinner together had been some of my favorite memories. Above is a photo from my host mom’s kitchen where I made fresh pasta with my host brother. It had been such a fun night making fresh pasta together with flour and eggs, creating tasty pesto sauce, and finishing everything off with home-made apple pie.
Aside from all the great food, my host mom was also very compassionate and understanding of us. Despite our cultural differences, we shared so many stories together during dinner with sips of wine, and created memories that will stay with me forever. She was always welcoming to all American exchange students, but also not afraid to say what was right for us. She was not only a great host, but also a good friend, and a mom. If anyone has the choice to choose between living with a host family and in an independent apartment, I definitely recommend living with a host family. You will not regret it!
– Stella Joo ’17 (Education Abroad Peer Advisor)