A True Home Away from Home

Photo courtesy of the author

Marina Stam is majoring in Psychology and Economics at Bowdoin College. She studied with The Swedish Program during the Spring 2018 semester. 

My semester in Stockholm was one of many firsts. It was full of new experiences, relationships, and connections that I could never have imagined prior to my arrival in January. I saw reindeer in the Arctic Circle, tried curling, and explored the restaurants, museums, and cafés of Stockholm in my time after school. However, while these experiences were novel and exciting, it was my host family that truly opened the door to parts of Sweden I would never have discovered. In my time with them, I learned about Swedish culture through dinner discussions, went on a family ski trip to Vemdalen, attended a baby shower in Göteborg, and went on an overnight visit to their extended family in Jönköping.

These experiences absolutely allowed me to gain a broader sense of Sweden than the area near SSE could provide alone, but the most valuable gift my host family gave me was the true sense of a home away from home. I first arrived in Sweden late at night, nine hours behind schedule after three flight delays. I expected to return home with my host parents, find my host siblings asleep, and wake up early the next morning for my first day at school. Much to my surprise, when we got to the house my host siblings were wide awake with welcome gifts, my host parents had prepared plates of meats, vegetables, cheese and bread, and they had set up candles in the kitchen for our meal. I was amazed at how they’d gone the extra mile to make me feel comfortable right away, and over the next four months I saw that this welcoming nature was their norm.

Throughout the entire semester, my host family included me in all their activities, spoke English with me, and always made time to spend with me, no matter how busy they were. We discussed all manner of topics from current events to music to differences between Sweden and the United States.  I watched shows and movies with them, went on walks through the neighborhood, and ate incredible food at every meal. I cannot thank the Swedish Program enough for taking the time to pair me with such an amazing family and I will truly never forget the time we shared. Now that I have returned to the U.S., I Skype with them frequently and can say with confidence that our connection which began in Stockholm will continue for years to come.