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Post Script: Homestay

Time July 6th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

Since my laptop has crashed, taking the footage from the semester with it, my final final anecdote will have to be told the old fashioned way: written word.

Like all other abroad students, I participated in a three-day long homestay. My host parents were named David and Susan. They lived in an old-fashioned farmhouse in Stirling, Scotland. Their quaint and beautifully curated home sitting on green farmland surrounded by gardens, was sort of the pinnacle of what I pictured country-living in Scotland would be before I left. Susan and David were talkative and welcoming; they introduced us to traditional Scottish meals (including haggis, neeps and tatties – duhlish), gave us a tour of different sites (including Stirling Castle, The Kelpies, and the amazing Falkirk Wheel) and poured us cup after cup of tea over stories about previous exchange students they had hosted, and comparing common practices and products between the U.K. and the U.S.

The moments that I really cherished were ones that were very, for lack of a better word, human. They were experiences one can only encounter through coexisting within a group, rather than ones planned on an itinerary. For example, Susan had a persistent cough that I at first thought might be the result of smoking, but unlike the tobacco scent of my grandfather’s house, hers smelled like rain and clean tile. She apologized for it on the third day, explaining that she was prone to throat infections as a result of being quote, “allergic to children.” I laughed when she said this – she did not. I thought that an odd diagnosis considering not only had she and David hosted approximately 150 other exchange students over the years, but was also a primary school teacher. In another instance, Susan’s car engine had to be jumped when we were leaving the Falkirk Wheel. She was apologetic, embarrassed even, and insisted that the two other students and I continue to wander the grounds and entertain ourselves while she tended to the engine. We did for a short while, then returned to help with the car. I really enjoyed these episodes. They were familiar; reminiscent of charmingly idiosyncratic exchanges when traveling with one’s family. Of course, I also loved sitting on plush chairs in front of a fire place, playing board games. Susan and David were extremely lovely all around, providing comfort and warmth.

I continue to recall my experiences abroad almost daily. I miss Scotland very much, and hope to return soon.

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My Genuine British Homestay

Time November 16th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This weekend I decided to go to Josh’s house. The last time I saw Josh someone ended up naked on a rugby pitch, but I decided that the risk was worth the reward. Josh is funny, and decidedly British, and he’s one of my best friends. We worked together for the past two summers at a children’s summer camp, and coincidentally he ended up next to me at Oxford-Brookes. The opportunity to see a real British household was too good to pass up.

Josh’s dad met us at the Cheltenham bus station, and from there it was a short drive to the house. It was a beautiful home—yellow, with a gate and a border collie—and the first thing Josh and I did was cook a proper English fry-up. I was in charge of the mushrooms, which were as golden as the sunrise, and Josh took the eggs, beans, and bacon. The toaster was in charge of the toast. When all was done, the eggs, beans, and bacon were inedible. Josh and I looked at some sheep out the window and pretended to be satisfied with mushrooms on toast.

On Sunday we went to his brother’s cross-country race in Bristol. Ben had recently won nationals for his age group, and this weekend he was competing for a 1000 pound prize. The large purse also attracted the UK’s top talent; at 20 years old, Ben was one of the youngest and most inexperienced runners there. Nevertheless, he put up a good showing, and although he didn’t win we were all proud of him and went out for ice cream afterwards. Actually, he just got on a train back to London and we went back to the house. There was no ice cream.

That evening, Josh’s mother prepared a traditional Sunday roast. It was unlike anything I had tasted before: think Thanksgiving feast, but every Sunday, and better. There was an entire roast chicken, expertly cooked and cut from the bone, as well as a vegetable medley—peas, carrots, and cauliflower—and both fried and roasted potatoes. We also had Yorkshire pudding, little flaky golden cakes that tasted like Pillsbury croissants. Josh covered his whole meal with runny stuffing, a mix of stuffing and gravy, and I followed suit. Although meals at Oxford are convenient—three courses served to us in a Harry Potter-like hall by suited waiters and waitresses—I’ll take Josh’s mum’s cooking any day.

After dinner, we “spoofed” to see who would clean up the dishes. “Spoof” is a game in which every participant gets three coins, and clandestinely puts one, two, three, or none of them under his or her hand on the table. Then everyone gets a chance to guess how many coins there are. If someone gets the number correct, he/she is out. This continues until only one person is left, and he/she is the loser. I, of course, was the loser, and had to do the dishes. We spoofed again to see who would make tea and cake, and I narrowly avoided losing again by beating Josh in the final round. This arrangement suited me, because I didn’t want to make tea, but also everyone else, because it was apparent that I had no idea how to make tea.

In the morning, Josh and I ate some Weetabix before getting back on the bus for Oxford. The bus was right on time, and I got two seats to myself. It was a comfortable ride, a fitting end to a comfortable weekend.

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