Min Svenska Familj

DIS has lots of choices for housing. I chose to live with a host family in a homestay. And they ended up being one of the best parts of my time abroad.

First, an introduction.

From left to right: Alina (4), a natural born extrovert who probably takes 6 doses of liquid intensity a day; Leonard (41), a belligerent cat who thinks he’s a lion but is too soft; me (now finally 20!); Theodor (6), a geeky kid who loves Minecraft but doesn’t eat pears; Amanda (5), an artistic panda who can already do her own makeup; Emilia (40), a flamboyant flamingo who takes tremendous care of her teeth and showers effectively; and Andrea (3), an already mature adult with the integrity to prefer cheese pies over apple pies.
(Alina and Theodor are Leonard’s kids, and Amanda and Andrea are Emilia’s kids from previous marriages.)

Way back in January, my dad flew with me from San Francisco to Stockholm. After taking half an hour to figure out how to open the trunk of the rental car, we drove down from the airport and arrived late. All thoroughly hungry at that point, we squeezed together around the dinner table for my first Swedish taco Friday.

I still hope I didn’t leave a messy first impression as I struggled to force my jet-lagged fingers to spoon beef, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, guacamole, and cheese into a taco. I have to thank my dad for being mentally present in that crucial first dinner conversation.

Naturally, I went to sleep early that night, and didn’t get up until late into the next morning. After 15 hours, I’d slept most of my jet-lag off and the only thing keeping me inside my room was the fear of going out and having to say hi. Yes, I was too shy.

So I waited until my entire host family (all 6 of them) left the house, gave it another 30 minutes, and then got up to raid the fridge. I gave them a quick wave on Facebook to let them know I was alive, and they kindly drove all the way back to grab me on the way to Exploria (an indoor kids’ amusement park).

Somehow, amidst the screams of small children and while trying to keep an eye on 4 in particular, I had my second conversation with my host parents. I learned a bit about them and told them about me. We shared our observations on the differences between America and Sweden.

The next weekend, my host mom had a huge party to celebrate her 40th birthday. They graciously invited me, and I spent the night trying to make conversation with middle-aged Swedes. Two things happened that night.

First, I perfected my introduction (“from California, studying neuroscience, been here for a week, etc.”). And second, I realized how fun it was to meet new people. That realization was a good way to kickstart the rest of my semester.

From there, we soon began to fall into a routine. I’d get up, have toast for breakfast, go to class, come back in the afternoon, and have dinner with the family. We’d talk about our day and watch Netflix together.

As my Swedish improved, I began to more successfully eavesdrop on their conversations (and communicate with the kids). At the same time, Leonard introduced me to Krav Maga. Emilia showed me how to use the dishwasher. And I introduced them to hotpot.

My host family was very extroverted and sociable, and a little crazy too. Despite being an introvert (yes, I still think I’m an introvert, and even if I weren’t, I can’t just go and change my tagline now), I connected quickly with them. They made it particularly easy to reach out and communicated well with me.

I owe a lot of my fun in the last few months to them, and I’m glad we met. So, thank you to Leonard, Emilia, Theodor, Amanda, Alina, and Andrea for cracking me out of my shell and showing me how to be just a little more spontaneous and social.

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