Florence: My Second Home

This week, University of California student Rosemary Orozco discusses the many benefits of choosing a homestay for your study abroad experience.

As a Global Studies major, as well as someone studying the Italian language, choosing to live with a host family felt like the obvious decision for me. I wanted to immerse myself in Italian culture and be forced to use as much of the language as possible as often as possible. And honestly? Mission accomplished. In fact, as a level 7 student, my host parents recently decided that English shouldn’t be used at all at home. Sounds hard, right? It is. But it helps me so much to practice and to have two parental figures ready to correct me or encourage me while I attempt to express myself and use increasingly more tenses and complex sentence structures. It’s exciting!

I think one of the biggest benefits is the food, which is delicious. I can’t imagine not experiencing a home-cooked Italian dinner. Also, it’s just really nice to have host parents who want to hear about your day and talk every night at dinner for sometimes an hour or two. It can be challenging sometimes because I’m used to being independent, and communicating can be hard because of linguistic and cultural barriers, but overall it’s worth it. I think my experience has been richer and more authentically Italian than that of my peers who chose to live in apartments (though there are certainly benefits to that as well!) and my host parents will remain forever in my memories as one of the highlights of this trip. 

Thinking about doing a homestay yourself? Some things to know: Very rarely are homestays centrally located, so a lot of homestay kids use the bus system. To me, that sounded time consuming, but from what I’ve gathered, it’s not actually that bad; Florence is walkable no matter where you are. Also, I know I was personally a little worried that it would be hard to hang out with friends, but that really wasn’t the case at all. In fact, I think my host parents very much expect students to be out and about all the time and the only time I’m expected home is for dinner – before and after that I’m free to do whatever. Whether you’re an upper-level Italian language student or not, I highly recommend selecting a homestay. If you do it, though, make sure you’re honest with your host parents about your likes/dislikes about food from the beginning – it’ll make their life easier. You will eat mountains of pasta daily but somehow they manage to make it different pretty frequently so try to be open to it. And if your host dad dumps olive oil in your pasta and beans trust me, it’s because he’s absolutely right.

Lastly, one of the best decisions I made was agreeing to have another study abroad student in the same homestay as me. She has ended up being one of my best friends on this trip and I think the homestay has been more enjoyable with her to share it with. It’s exactly like having a sibling that you’re good friends with. We tend to rely on each other a lot, especially when it comes to anything related to the host parents or how to approach them about something (there’s a lot of glancing at each other and silently communicating during dinner when the parents aren’t looking). It feels a lot like we’re a little family of 4.

I love it.

~Rosemary Orozco, UCEAP’s “Made In Italy” Program

Did this post inspire you to study abroad and and enjoy a real homestay experience? Use the ACCENT Program Finder to take the first step: http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.