Living with a host family enhanced my experience abroad...
When I was planning my semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, I was determined to live with a host family to get the true Danish experience, and I got much more than I had expected. I was placed with a host mom who lived on the outskirts of Copenhagen, and she took care of a ten-year-old girl every other weekend. One of the coolest things about living with a host family is getting firsthand experience on how people in different countries live, which you can’t read about in travel books. For example, I learned how great they are at conserving space in Denmark. Many places have spiraling staircases and use large futons as beds because they can be folded into couches.
My host mom also made a lot of typical Danish dishes, which I really enjoyed. During the first week I was there, it was my host sisters birthday, so we had a birthday party for her. My host mom made a traditional Danish birthday cake, which consists of layers of shortbread with cream and fresh fruit in between, and it was delicious! I also ate a lot of Danish meatballs called frikadellers, and my host mom even made chicken hearts once because she grew up on a farm and ate them often. The chicken hearts were honestly better than I thought they would be, and I had an interesting story to share with my friends and family back home!
Making the Birthday Cake
My Host Sister's Birthday Party
Since my host sister was still learning English in school we couldn’t communicate verbally very well, so we found other ways to have fun together when we couldn’t speak full sentences to each other (although my attempt to speak Danish was entertaining for her!). She rode horses, and I got to see her lessons and cheer her on with my host mom. We also played Twister with her friends, went ice skating, took photographs, walked dogs, and went roller skating. Even without really being able to speak to each other, we still were able to communicate and had a lot of fun together!
Ice Skating with my Host Sister and her Friend
My host mom had a lot of friends who lived nearby, and they would often stop by and were happy to answer my questions about life in Denmark. My host mom also had one friend who had lived in the U.S. in high school, so we had a lot of fun talking about life in the states! We also went to a friend’s house for dinner a few times, and I befriended their daughter who was around my age. We actually ended up going to a concert together, and I’m still in touch with her today. All of these experiences would not have been possible had I not lived with a host family.
My host mom wanted me to see a lot of Denmark, so she would often take me on short trips and show me around. We went to the beach a few times, and my favorite trip was to see sled dogs in a town called Roskilde. My host mom had Siberian Huskies, and she loved watching people train and race their dogs so we went to a field where they practiced on the weekends. It was really fascinating to watch modern sled dog racing since I had only seen it on TV before, and not many other people can say that they’ve seen it in person. Many of the people there were using ATVs or bikes instead of your typical sled, and I thought that was an interesting modern twist. I also got to pet the dogs and helped feed them when they were resting, which was a lot of fun!
Sled Dogs in Roskilde
Since my host mom lived on the outskirts of Copenhagen, I took the train into the city for school every day. I really enjoyed this experience because I felt like a real Dane commuting into the city every day. I was actually mistaken for a Dane often, which really made me feel like I fit in! Having a host family really made me feel at home in Denmark, and I enjoyed coming home for dinner every night and feeling like I was with a second family. Living with a host family really helped me experience true Danish culture, and I would definitely recommend it to other students!
Julia Dent is a senior at Meredith College and is majoring in Media Writing. She studied Vikings while studying abroad in Denmark and traveled throughout Scandinavia, which inspired her to write her thesis on the historicity of Icelandic Sagas. She enjoys photography and history and is pursuing a career in photojournalism. If you want to read more about her adventures in Denmark, check out her post on the "Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad in Denmark" and her travel blog!