Homestay Happiness

Our first picture together after arriving at CPH airport

What is it like being in a homestay you ask? It is only the BEST thing ever! I want to tell you all about what it was like to truly have a home away from home. This is what stepping out on faith looks like and how something I was skeptical of, ended up being one of the best decisions I have ever made. To my family met in Greve, this is for you!

As I previously mentioned, I was skeptical of living in a homestay, and because of that, I chose to put it near the bottom of my list of choices in the options for housing. There were plenty of valid reasons why I did not necessarily want a host family. For starters, I have definitely heard the horror stories of people not getting along with their host families and have also been a part of one! My family hosted international students growing up, and while I loved and had great relationships with almost all of them…there was that ONE that just did not work out and did not end in a great experience. Even though that was just one bad apple out of a bunch, I did not want to take my chances and happen to get a family that was the lone rotten apple. Another reason I was not quite sold on the host family idea was because I happened to be the only person from my college in the DIS Scandinavia program this semester. Most of my fellow classmates chose other places in Europe, Africa, or South America and because of that, I knew that I wanted to be in a dorm-like situation where I could be around other students. I thought that being in an LLC or Kollegium would make it easier to get to know people in my program, but I quickly realized that you can absolutely do both. One reason that eased my thoughts about being in a homestay was my father telling me about his host family when he moved to the states from Ghana, and how they are still such close family to this day. I can attest to that statement because I’ve met them and call them grandma, grandpa, and uncle just like my biological family!

Fast forward a few weeks to when the day had finally come to receive my housing placement and guess what I got…a homestay. I was very confused because I definitely did not label it as my first choice and being in a homestay is usually the most sought after option. I emailed DIS back and asked if they could please place me in my first choice (a kollegium) instead. The housing directors basically replied, “of course we COULD do that, but just know that we really think we have the perfect family, roommate, and living situation for you, but if this is not what you want, then we will switch you..and by the way, they have a dog.” Well when you put it like that it sounds like an opportunity that I would be crazy to turn down…and they definitely knew what they were doing throwing the dog incentive in there, sneaky move my friends. I followed up with a few questions, spoke to my parents about it, watched a bunch of youtube videos, and finally made the decision to go with my gut to stay in a homestay and needless to say, they were right, it was perfect.

I was able to FaceTime with my host parents prior to my departure to Denmark so that my parents and I could feel more at ease with who I would be living with, and I was so happy with the conversation. I arrived to Copenhagen at a later time than I originally anticipated so I was a little fearful that I was not off to a good start with my host family. However, when I saw them with arms open and ready to genuinely embrace me at the arrivals area, I sighed a breathe of relief. I said goodbye to my dad who conveniently had a business trip in Europe so he just tagged along with me, and from then on, it was history. We continued on our journey back to Greve, which is about a twenty-five minute drive from the city, and guess what dinner was waiting on me when I got home…TACOS! That is when the Texas girl in me KNEW I was going to be just fine where I was! I have never had an easier conversation with a bunch of strangers I just met, like our first night at the dinner table, and that ease never went away. My roommate and I had the entire basement to ourselves which included our own bathroom, washer/dryer, closet, and fridge, so we were living pretty comfortably! However, even though we had so much space to ourselves, most of the time we were upstairs with our family because that is where all of the fun took place!

I believe staying in a homestay is the ultimate way to get the most culturally immersive experience while abroad. The fact that I was able to be in a Danish family, constantly hear the Danish language, eat Danish food and more, provided me with key moments to really appreciate all that is Scandinavia. For example, one of the house rules in my homestay was that my roommate and I each had to cook dinner once a week. When we first heard this, we were terrified, but it in turn came to be one of my favorite parts of the week. I learned that pig skin was actually not bad and that I won’t eat any other pizza but potato pizza now. However, I also learned that I hate rye bread and that the Danish version of LICORICE is a horrific taste buds trap. Do not. Try. The. Licorice. I REPEAT, DO NOT TRY IT! It was also fun to bring our cultures into the home as well with this rule! My roommate was Mexican-American and often made Mexican dishes, and I come from a Ghanaian-American background so I was able to make some African and Southern Black dishes. Although, we DID end up getting nicknamed the “pasta girls” of the household for our fondness of all things Italian food. In hindsight, I think we need to check our ancestry again to see if we missed something. Cooking once a week also often caused us to bike to the local grocery store and do our best to shop like a local, which was an experience in itself. Let me give you a quick tip on that, do not even try to put on your best Danish tongue at Netto…they already know you are a foreigner as soon as you walk in. Another moment that I recall in my immersion to Danish culture was one of my favorites, and that is VERSUS NIGHTS! Versus was a game show on the DR (Danish Radio) channel, which is the most famous station for the Danes. The weekly broadcast set up a number of unusual challenges and asked the studio audience and any viewer with the Versus app to decide who will win. There was also money involved because with every decision you get right, your name is entered in a raffle done at the end of the night with a decent amount of kroner as a reward! My roommate was teamed with my host mom, and I was with my host dad, we did not take competition lightly! They would translate the gist of the challenges and then it was game on to see which of us would get the most correct. My host dad and I won the first time of course, but the next time my host mom and roommate won, so I am still waiting for the final rematch so we can determine who the TRUE Versus winners are! Just like with the food, we were also able to bring our culture into the home within the entertainment world. I remember when we suggested to watch a classic American comedy “White Chicks” for a movie night and had so many laughs! One final culturally immersive moment that I remember is when we attended a Danish church service with my host mom. My host mom works at the church and was so excited to bring us along for “Beatles-Sing-Along” night. Though the message was in Danish, the songs were not so we were able to have a great time singing along and meeting such nice people from the congregation.

Other great aspects of being in a homestay occur if you are fortunate enough to have the best host siblings, roommate and homestay network like I did. I had a fourteen-year old host brother who I truly got close to in the time that I was there. He reminded me of my own little brother and from rating his sneaker choices, to singing our favorite rap songs, to teasing him with a “RELAX DUDE,” having a bond with your host sibling is so important for both of you. I miss him dearly and I love getting to watch him grow up and be the coolest kid on social media. When it comes to roommates, I literally hit the jackpot! Just like the host family idea, I did not originally want a roommate. I thought I would be better off by myself enjoying my own space. Boy, was I completely wrong! My roommate and I not only became friends, we became sisters. Having someone who is in the exact same situation as you, experiencing this new territory together, is really a blessing and I encourage taking the chance when choosing whether or not you want a roommate. We still communicate to this day and have long hours on FaceTime as if we were back in the basement in Greve. Lastly, your homestay network is super important to your homestay experience. A homestay network is basically all of the other DIS students in your homestay village. When we had our first gathering, I was not so sure we would be the most gelled group, but once again, I was wrong! We got along so well and had a lot of fun with each other. We even had two kickbacks while we were there, one of which was hosted by our homestay house!

There are just not enough words and spaces on this page to fully tell you about how much I loved every moment of my homestay experience and homestay family. From biking to the beach, to getting tricked into eating FIFTEEN IKEA Swedish meatballs! From Hugh Hefner inside jokes, to Danish X-Factor nights. From conversations about race, gender, and politics, to learning new Danish words that I shall not say (inside joke)! From playing Uno, to purchasing whole cases of Faxe Kondi because we loved it so much! From discovering the Wii again at a homestay network kickback, to binging “Love is Blind” and indulging in too much chocolate on a roomie basement date. From repeatedly singing “Down Below,” to getting a surprise scare from my host brother on a night walk. From laughs at a homestay network breakfast, to immense cries when it came time to finally say goodbye. I could go on and on about the significant memories that I have from my time in my homestay but I will stop here. I cannot imagine being stubborn and sticking to my choice of a kollegium, because look at all that I would have missed out on. Though I did not get my full four months with my host family, I know we will all someday meet again and get those moments that were planned but did not happen. In the two months that we did have together, true bonds were created and I can still so easily recall some of our greatest memories. I encourage anyone to stay in a homestay if given the chance, you might gain a second family around the world destined just for you.

To my Danish mor, far, bror, and hund, I love you guys and thank you for letting me be your temporary daughter. You have a forever place in my heart. Let us continue to FaceTime and remember that Texas is only two long flights away!

Published by gdarkoo

Hello! My name is Gabrielle Darko and I am a student at Spelman College, located in Atlanta, Georgia but I am originally from Houston, Texas. I'm a traveler, photographer, and writer. I would like for you to come with me as I embark on this journey called...life!

4 thoughts on “Homestay Happiness

  1. Beautiful Gabby. I really enjoyed this blog and the others also. Thank you for sharing. I’ll be looking forward to the next one. You are so talented and so beautifully humble. God bless you on your journey. Stay focused and don’t ever let go of God’s hand. I love you. Aunt Cynthia

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  2. Hi! I’ve been looking at study abroad blogs because I’m getting some pretty intense wanderlust during quarantine lol.
    I’m just in 8th grade, but I’ve always been hoping to get a chance to study abroad later! I’ve been contemplating the Nordic countries, and I’ve also got my eye on the Czech Republic and France.

    I must say, before reading this blog post I was pretty set on a kollegium as well– I’m pretty awkward, and living with a host family has always struck me as something that would be tricky for me socially. I didn’t know you could live with a roommate in a host family, though, and that has actually helped me warm up to the idea– I wouldn’t be the only foreigner that way, haha! And reading about all of your experiences with them has made me see that the connection one makes with their host family can be really precious.

    I’m really sorry that quarantine has cut your time with them short. I hope you get to see them again soon!

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    1. Hello Sophia!

      Thank you so much for reading my blogs! I am also glad to hear that you are already thinking about these things in the 8th grade, you’re way ahead of me already! I definitely understand your feelings for a kollegium as you’ve read, but I definitely am an advocate for choosing a host family now. My world has been completely changed by them and I facetime them almost weekly now. I also really encourage looking into DIS and coming to Denmark because it is a remarkable country and you really have a guaranteed chance to have a great host family. All of my homestay friends LOVED their families! If you have any more questions or want to know more about my experience, I am open and here to talk!

      Best,
      Gabby

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