Monthly Archives: May 2012

Holly in Italy

Holly, a junior at the Univesity of Minnesota, went to Rome, Italy, just this year. She’s a Communications major, minoring in Italian and management, and blogs at

If you did a homestay I would like to talk to you about it. Email me at

Where did you go?

I was on a study abroad semester with the University of Minnesota and I lived in Rome in a neighborhood called Monteverde and my school is located right in the city center. I stayed from January 18th til May 5th of this year.

Inside the apartment

What was the family like?

I lived in a homestay with a single Signora who only speaks Italian and is around 70 years old. She has three kids that are older now and off on their own. My Signora cooked wonderful Italian meals every night and loved to watch Italian game shows during the evenings.

Did you do anything to prepare for the homestay?

I really wasn’t able to prepare for the homestay experience because my school didn’t send me my housing assignment until two weeks before I was scheduled to leave. I just tried to study and memorize a lot of Italian vocabulary words and phrases before I left.

Food is one of the biggest adapaptations during a homestay. Did you find a new favorite?  Was there something you wouldn’t eat?

My favorite dish that I ate in my homestay was the homemade pesto sauce with pasta. My Signora made most flavorful and best pesto sauce.The most difficult Italian delicacy for me to eat was the prosciutto and the raw fish (like Salmon). In Italy, it is really common to eat cold, raw fish but I don’t really like fish in general. I also never got used to the taste of the salty prosciutto.

How did the homestay affect your language learning?

The homestay really improved my language abilities and I especially saw a huge improvement in my listening skills. We mainly talked during dinnertime because during the rest of the day I was usually away at school.

Did the homestay affect how you see your own family?  In what way?

My homestay did not affect my own family, but I have noticed that the whole experience overall affected me and taught me to be more patient.

View from the street

If you were to do it again what would you do differently?

If I were to do the whole experience over again, I would probably try harder to speak to my Signora about different things. Every evening, we usually discussed the same things (weather, school, her schedule) so the conversation was pretty consistent and I didn’t feel like I learned a ton of new vocabulary.

What was the most important thing that you took away from the experience?

The most important thing that I took away from this experience is that it is important to step out of your comfort zone and experience new countries, cultures, and languages, and I would highly recommend studying abroad to every college student and traveling in general.

Catching the tram into Rome


Homestay tips: 5 articles to help you feel at home

Preparing a homestay? Most advice is common sense but the following articles can help you with a little more detail.

• General tips.

• Detailed advice.

• This is partly focused on Latin America but also has some general tips. I like numbers five and ten.

• Specific to Eastern Europe.

• For Japan.

I’d love to find more country specific tips. Do you have any advice for a homestay participant?

Window into Russian superstitions.


I grew up knowing that walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror, or having a black cat cross your path were supposed to bring bad luck. While admittedly I might meander around a ladder instead of diving beneath it when given an option, I hardly believed any of those things were true!

Living with my host mother Galya, I’ve encountered a laundry list of new superstitions. It was definitely a surprise, however, when I realized how seriously she took them! For the purpose of entertainment as well as education, here are five solid ways to ward off bad luck, evil spirits, death, etc.–all according to a Russian babushka!

1: Say, “Hello, Sarah!”
If you forget something (say, your cell phone or wallet) and have to return to your house, be sure to greet your reflection. The first time I had to return home for forgotten goods, Galya instructed me to…

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