I’m Maria from California State University Fresno, and I’m currently studying abroad in Italy with USAC Reggio Emilia. I chose the homestay option for my experience, although I didn’t speak any Italian at the time of my enrollment. I made this decision based on previous students’ positive experience and following my parents’ advice as well.
At first, before meeting the host family, I hoped I would have another student with me in the same family to avoid feeling alone, but I soon realized that, even if it was just me, I was not alone. Not at all.
They are my home. They immediately made me feel part of the family.
Unless I have class, I always go home for my lunch break, and we sit all together in the garden to enjoy our espresso and chat before all going back to work, or school. Also at night, before going to bed, we just chill all together, with my host parents and their two sons: sometimes we play cards or we sit on the couch to watch a movie with a hot cup of tea.
And if I want to see my friends, they gave me a bike so it’s easier for me to meet them. My host family is so supportive that whenever I tell them about a trip my friends and I are planning, they run to the studio to grab some travel guides, sit down around the table with me, and start writing down the major attractions for me to check out.
One day, soon after the program started, I was running a fever, so Manuela, my host mom, took me to the Doctor, and then she put me on bed rest: she would check on me, bring me hot tea, and soup. If I had not had her, I would have been terribly homesick. It is always nice to have someone care for you when you are sick, and it becomes especially important when you are thousands of miles from home.
It has only been a month since we have met so far, but Manuela and I already have a close bond and our own little routines. For example, if I do not have class in the morning, we will go have breakfast together at a café in the city center.
Manuela and Dario will not stop thanking me for playing video games with Matteo, their little one, but I really have a lot of fun doing it. I also enjoy helping Luca, the older son, who is closer to my age, practicing his Spanish and English those times our schedules are similar and we go together to school. We also like to sing together: one night Dario and Manuela had guests, and Luca started playing Adele’s song on the piano so I could sing for them.
All this not to mention how much living with them helps my Italian language skills!
Take it from me: everyone should consider a homestay option during his or her study abroad experience.
Maria Valdivia is currently studying abroad in Reggio-Emilia.