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Inside Life Abroad: Host Families

After spending a few weeks in Florence, I was surprised to learn that out of all the students in the CEA Florence program, I was one of three people that chose to stay with a host family. I was so surprised, because staying with my host family has been an amazing experience, and I'm sad that more of my peers won't get that opportunity. While I am sure living in the CEA apartments with other American students has its perks, I whole-heartedly recommend any future study abroad student to live with a host family.
 Living Room

Now, I know before choosing my housing option that I had a few hesitations. For example: I barely knew more than the greeting “ciao,” before coming abroad; I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go out at night if I lived with a family. But all of that worrying was for nothing. Living with a host family, you are exposed to the language constantly. It has helped my Italian speaking ability to the point that halfway through the semester, I am able to tell my host family about my day entirely in Italian, and I feel confident about doing so. Because you are exposed to the language so frequently, you retain it more than you would by only going to the daily, one-hour CEA class.
 Dining Room

Additionally, my host family is very encouraging for me to go out at night. They say that Florence is a great city when the sun goes down, and they want me to go out and explore it, so they don’t impose a curfew. The only thing they ask is that I am considerate and quiet when I come home, as to not wake the children; but, that’s hardly an unjust request.
Another perk to staying with a host family (in Italy, in particular): The food is amazing. My host mom considers herself an “average” cook, but her food tastes better than you can find in most restaurants in the U.S. And despite tasting delicious, it’s nice to know after a long day of walking around and exploring Florence that I will come “home” to a freshly made meal. Furthermore, having a host parent that cooks is an indispensable way to taste the local culture; its takes the immersion one step further. When I leave Florence, I will have a little recipe book filled with all of the delicious things that my host mom made me, so I can make them at home in the U.S.
Lastly, I wanted to share with you pictures of my host family’s apartment. While it’s important to note that each host apartment will obviously look different, this will still give you an idea of what you can expect.
 My Bedroom
 My Dresser
 My Desk

I fully recommend you take advantage of the amazing opportunity that staying with a host family provides. You will experience a different level of immersion into the local culture than you would by living on your own in an apartment. I know that I wouldn’t enjoy this experience nearly as much if it weren’t for my “familglia.”

Nate DeRidder is the Fall 2015 MOJO Photographer in Florence, Italy. He is currently a junior at Cardinal Stritch University.

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