By Jack Wright, Hamilton College ’19
While searching for study abroad programs, I knew that to truly experience cultural immersion, I would have to live with a host family. With The Swedish Program, I am lucky enough to spend the next four months with an incredible family just outside of Stockholm! I can say with absolute certainty that living with my host family (including my two host siblings and a dog) has been the highlight of my semester so far. Here are just a few of the many perks:
What better way to learn about a foreign culture than by living it? Every day, I learn something new about Swedish life from my host family by talking at dinner, playing games at night, or even just watching football or handball. I have also soaked up some of the more nuanced aspects of Swedish culture that you may miss without a host family. For example, I’ve gained an appreciation for Swedish work-life separation, health/fitness habits, and public-school structure. One difference that has particularly struck me is how rarely my host parents bring their work home with them. This difference fits into the broader Swedish norm that I have noticed, which is the prioritization of self-care.
No matter how “authentic” or “typical” a local restaurant advertises itself to be, there is no better way to experience Swedish cuisine than by sharing meals with a Swedish family every day. Plus, you will be able to learn about the history and culture behind each meal! In the past two weeks alone, my host family has prepared everything from a traditional meal of Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry sauce to a rich, creamy Carbonara dish. It’s also a huge plus not to have to cook your own meals every night—coming home to a warm, freshly prepared meal is incredible! And if you’re lucky, your host family might even surprise you with some delicious “kanelbullar” (cinnamon rolls) like mine did!
I have also really enjoyed sharing my own experiences and perspectives with my host family. The immersion experience is just as much about the host family learning about you as it is about you learning about the host family. I have realized that I can share my culture in many ways—not just through conversation. Just the other night, I cooked one of my favorite dishes from home for my host family, allowing me to introduce my host family to the various culinary traditions of my own family.
Just like at university back home, there are some days that I just feel overwhelmed. I am so grateful that after days like those, I am able to come back to a place where I feel welcomed and comfortable so that I can recharge before the next adventure.
Living with my host family has not only provided me a unique insight into Swedish culture, but it also has been an immensely enjoyable experience. I highly recommend anyone considering The Swedish Program to come to Stockholm and live with a host family—it’s the best way to experience Sweden.