Since I've basically lived in my homestay for three months now, I considered myself an expert on the art of living with an Italian family. It's an adventure, to say the least. For me personally, it's not at all what I expected--but not necessarily in either a good or bad way. Before coming to Italy, I was really worried about the program only being thirteen people. I had this vision of spending time with my classmates during the week, and exploring Siena with my host family during the weekend. The part of exploring with my host family has yet to come true, but I'm not mad or disappointed. My host parents are two genuinely sweet people (thinking back on them surprising me with a cake on my birthday). However, the only time that I really see them is during dinner because they both work long hours. The girls, ages 8 and 15 both go to school, and then usually spend their free time with their grandma. They're not super interested in me, but I think a lot of it has to do with the language barrier. We've had bonding moments regarding pop culture and Ariana Grande, but that's it. Again, I'm not mad or disappointed. It's just different than what I had initially imagined.
Each homestay situation is different. Some of us have large families with children, and others only live with an older Italian woman. Dinners vary, apartment size varies--basically every aspect of homestays vary between households. I've done a lot of thinking about whether or not I would do my homestay over again, and I've come to the conclusion that I would. Even though I don't necessarily have the traditional Italian family that I expected (large, elaborate dinners, tons of excited children, and a house constantly filled with people and noise), I would still choose it. My goal coming to Italy was to return fluent, and my Italian family has helped ensure that this will happen. My host dad speaks only a few words of English, and that's it. So, I had to become really good at Italian, and fast. In the beginning I was afraid to converse with the family and didn't understand a lot. Now I 've had many conversations about politics, religion, classes, and my American family. And all in Italian!
I took some time to ask a few of my classmates about their favorite things regarding living with a host family, and here are their responses:
Nataly: "I really like the family dinners. To me it's strange to sit down for an hour, and hour and a half, and eat a meal. I really like it."
Beverlee: "I like to come home to a family and a home, and not just a house."
Sarah: "I was pleasantly suprised by my homestay. I was a little apprehensive because it was just going to be me and my host mom, but I feel so comfortable and at home here, and that was really important to me."
Overall, I think that the majority of us are happy with our homestays, and would do it over again. Here are some ideas for successfully living with an Italian family:
1. Don't be afraid to talk to them. Yes, you will mess up, and will probably get laughed at. But keep trying--the rewards are worth the struggle.
2. Ask questions! Italian toilets and doors are weird (refer to my my second blog for details). If you're confused, ask.
3. It's okay to not spend every second with your family. You're a student, and they will understand you needing to leave the dinner table to work on homework.
4. Be respectful of their rules and their property. At the end of the day, you are a guest in their home. Never forget that.
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<p>I am a current junior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Italian at Sewanee: The University of the South. I am a proud member of Kappa Delta sorority, and am a coxswain for Sewanee's crew team. In my free time, I enjoy kayaking, reading, going for runs, and playing with my dogs.</p>