My Mini Homestay
written by Michelle Goodman (University of California-EAP)
Last weekend I had the privilege of visiting my Czech buddy, Ivana’s hometown. She lives in a small town (or village, she says) called Trebon. I was welcomed into her home by her mother, father, and 19-year old brother, Jakub. Before going into detail, I just want to stress the importance of this experience in my life in gaining perspective on an entirely different lifestyle. If you have the opportunity to stay with a Czech family, even if it’s only for the weekend, you won’t regret it. Although I described it as different, I still managed to find some similarities in Ivana’s home life in comparison to mine.
We started the weekend by taking about a two hour train ride from Prague to Trebon. Surprisingly, I’ve actually never taken a train that has separate compartments with around six seats each. If you can’t imagine it, just think Harry Potter and the Hogwarts Express. We entered through platform 9¾ of course. It was magical. Whenever someone approached their stop, they would exit our small “room,” but not without saying “Nascheldano!” It felt comfortable and friendly. A great start to the weekend!
We arrived around 9PM at Ivana’s village where I greeted her father and mother who spoke no English. The language barrier was quite difficult to approach but I went in with a positive attitude. Her brother on the other hand is proficient in English and I was able to discuss his interests and hobbies with him. I found out that that he is just starting school in Prague, following his older sister’s footsteps. That night I ate bread and butter with meat and cheese for dinner. Back at home, this would be a quite strange and honestly, a somewhat dry meal for me. Ivana, however, explained to me that in her family and typical Czech tradition values lunch over every meal. That gave me hope. Her sister, who also studies in Prague, decided not to come home, so I was able to sleep in her room. I almost felt like her fill-in for the weekend.
The next day, Ivana, Jakub and I went on a bike ride around the whole town. We rode past the largest lake in the Czech Republic, passed through the larger than life Oak trees, and explored the small city which happened to be throwing an Apple Festival at the time. I tried the locally grown apples, apple cider, and honey liquor. We biked back home to a delicious lunch with pork, vegetables and sliced, baked potatoes. It definitely exceeded my expectations and confirmed what Ivana had mentioned to me about lunch the night before.
That night, we went to dinner and drinks with Ivana’s girlfriends from home and they welcomed me into their conversations. Here was where I felt the most similar and comfortable because they all spoke English and of course they gossiped and talked about boys. Sometimes they would speak in Czech to one another, but I did not mind because I knew I was experiencing their way of life. They let me into their group and for me, it was as if I was welcomed into their culture.
This weekend allowed me to peak into the authentic lives of Czech people. I noticed little things that allow me to grasp on to concepts of intercultural communication in terms of my relationships with the people I came across. With her parents, I understand the signs of respect and with her friends I caught onto the signs of peer to peer interaction. It was a great weekend and it really gave me insight on the world around me; exactly what I was seeking in my study abroad experience.