What it’s like to live in a homestay while studying abroad
’ll admit, living with a family (that isn’t yours) while studying in another country is a little weird. But studying in another country is a pretty weird experience to begin with, so what’s another strange situation added to the mix? I chose to live in a homestay because I wanted to really get to know Danish culture—something you can’t fully understand if you live on your own or with other students from your home country. But I’ve realized that there’s so much more you can get out of your homestay than just cultural immersion.
First of all: THE FOOD. My host mom is an amazing cook, and I know I’d probably just be making myself pasta and cereal every night if I didn’t live with her. I guess, in the process of eating delicious meals, I learned a little more about Danish culture. My host mom and sister taught me some etiquette rules (ie. saying “tak for mad” and where to put your silverware to indicate you’re done with your meal), they introduced me to special Danish cuisine (I <3 tartelette!!!), and of course, we have some great conversations around the table every morning and night. We talk about American and Danish politics (and agreed that we would all be outraged if Donald Trump becomes President next year). We discuss work and school. My host mom describes her workday, and my host sister and I complain about homework. And we all have a good laugh at Sofus, my host dog, trying to eat people food. Which brings me to my next point…
I get to have a dog again! Unfortunately, my dog Samson (arguably the best dog in the entire world) passed away a little before I left for Denmark. While away at school, I often missed Sam more than I missed the rest of my family. He was one of the things that made me feel completely at home—his warm body, his loyalty, and even his gross farts made me feel safe and comfortable. When I found out my ho
st family in Denmark had a dog, I was ecstatic. All of my friends living in dorms are definitely jealous; it’s basically like having a baby in
the house (who barks instead of crying all the time). Sofus is much smaller than Samson, but he makes me feel at home in the same way my dog did.
Another thing I love about living in a homestay is all of the little, seemingly insignificant facts I get to learn about the country I’ll be living in for four months. Today, my host mom showed me a few vintergækker she found in their garden. These tiny flowers, translated roughly into “winter teasers,” symbolize the ending of winter and beginning of spring; they “tease” Winter, poking their heads out to say the season is almost over. She also explained that it’s a tradition to anonymously send/draw these flowers on cards for Easter; if the receiver cannot guess who sent it, they must buy an Easter egg for the person who sent the card. If the receiver does guess who sent it, the sender must buy the Easter egg. (Of course, she noted, parents will always buy eggs for their kids and pretend not to know who sent the card!) Denmark has a culture with many traditions, and learning the details of them—details you can’t find on Google—is one of the great parts of living with a Danish family.
There are definitely pros and cons in any housing situation—whether you’re studying in your home country or abroad. But, after just a few weeks in Denmark, I can say that I truly love living with a Danish family. There’s always a bit of luck involved with how compatible the student and family may be, but I definitely hit the jackpot with mine. We love theater, food, dogs, and good conversation. I’m so glad I chose to study in Denmark, and I’m so glad I chose to live in a homestay.
In terms of logistics, I’m sure you’re wondering “but how do I even find a family that wants to host me?” Lucky for me, my study abroad institution organized everything for me—I didn’t have to search at all! However, if you’re not studying in Copenhagen through an institution like mine, you may have to search a little. One option is to apply to be a family’s au pair, or a live-in nanny for their children. Here’s a website if you’re curious about how to find a host family as an au pair:
For other options, such as regular student housing (where you can still live with Danes, just not necessarily a family), check out section on housing here on StudyCPH.
Studying in Denmark is an amazing opportunity, and I urge you not to miss out on the opportunity of living with a fun and welcoming Danish family like I do!