I chose to study abroad with the intention of immersing myself in the culture as fully as possible. The most encompassing way that I did this was by choosing to live with a host family. This was the best decision I could have made, and it truly added to my experience from day one.
I landed in Milan on September 3rd, only to find that one of my bags hadn’t arrived – the one with most of my clothes in it. I then struggled to figure out where my host family lived, and after lugging a suitcase around Milan for the better part of an hour, ended up at their front door. I was a little nervous and unsure of what to expect, but they welcomed me in with a bowl of fresh spaghetti, and I knew that from then on, things would be alright.
I have heard several different experiences with host families. Most people seem to really enjoy the experience. However, there are definitely some that are not as happy about their decision. I have found that the biggest factor affecting a host family experience is communication. The day that I met my host family we went over the rules of the house, and then we engaged in a dialogue about what I liked and didn’t like to eat, my sleep preferences and general lifestyle habits. They knew what to expect and were also able to explain to me how things worked in their household. They also established that I could talk to them about whatever I needed. This set things up for success from the start.
Throughout the semester, I always felt welcome at my house. While I lived in the suburbs, I loved the neighborhood and felt very safe running in the area, even at night. I would have dinner with my host family every evening. We would talk about our days, they would teach me Italian, and we would simply enjoy taking an hour to relax and enjoy the good food. This nightly meal was my favorite part of almost every day, as it made me feel like I really had a community.
My host family was also my ambassador to the city. They would take me to their favorite coffee shops and art museums. They would also give me recommendations. If I said that I wanted to go to dinner with a friend, they would give me a list of the best restaurants in any given neighborhood. This local insight was invaluable. It extended past Milan though. I traveled to several different cities around Italy and Europe and was able to experience them more fully based on my host family’s recommendations of specific sandwich shops, museums, or just general points of interest. They really made my time great.
While living with a host family can seem intimidating or uncertain, it was the best decision I made in regard to my study abroad experience. I always felt supported, and truly felt like I had a family away from home.
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<p>Hi, I'm Max! I am studying Real Estate and finance and have spent all of 2018 traveling. I began domestically, visiting St. Louis, Charleston and NYC in January. Then in February, I headed to China to spend the semester at Fudan University in Shanghai! I got to travel to over 15 different cities in China while there. Next, I spent a few days in Hong Kong as a tourist before heading to Mumbai to spend July and August working for a real estate development company. I have a passion for cross-cultural interaction and this year has truly allowed to explore that.</p>