Before this trip, I had only had the opportunity to travel abroad once. I was in high school and the trip only spanned the length of ten days, so I spent every night in one hotel or another. So when I found out I was going to be staying with a host family during my study abroad program, I was extremely nervous. Not only was I going to be in a different country surrounded by a different language and different culture, but I was also going to be experiencing it in someone’s actual home.
A million thoughts went through my head when I thought about staying with an Italian family. I was worried that it would be weird or awkward, I was worried that the language barrier was going to be too big to bridge, I was worried about being uncomfortable and out of place. I was obviously worried about it all. However; looking back, all of these worries were unfounded. In Cristiana and her family’s house, I found a home.
I’m not going to pretend that everything fell in to place from the very first second I arrived. In fact, the first day was difficult and relatively overwhelming. I met Cristiana half an hour after I stepped off the plane into Florence. It was awkward. But how could it not be? I was exhausted, running on hardly any sleep and feeling jet-lag creeping up on me every second, and had not had even one second to breathe before being caught up in all of the things I needed to do. So, when I met Cristiana and she went to kiss my cheeks (as customary in Italian culture) I didn’t realize what was going on which led to an extremely awkward side hug. I’m happy to say we recovered from that slightly uncomfortable first impression.
I didn’t spend much time in my house considering any free time I had outside of classes I spent exploring as much of Italy as possible but the times I was in the house, I was happy. My roommate, Briana, and I sat down to dinner with Cristiana and the other girls living in the house every night. Cristiana would bring out an amazing spread of food and always provided an interesting conversation as well. Though Cristiana spoke relatively good English, we all attempted to speak only Italian at dinner. It was difficult but she was always able to help us when we got stuck. By the end of the month, conversations flowed easier.
I am very thankful for these dinners as I feel like this was the main source of learning for me when it came to the Italian language and even the Italian culture. I am also very thankful for Cristiana and her family for all of the comfort and kindness they provided. Saying goodbye was extremely hard and I hope I get the chance to visit them again soon.
So, while staying with a host family may be intimidating, I promise it’s an experience like no other and I wouldn’t change that for the world.