Homestay Life in Florence

By: Lucia Lecce

In the spring of 2015 I began filling out my study abroad paperwork. It was during this time that I considered whether or not I wanted to live in a homestay with an Italian household. I decided not to do a homestay. I assumed that I would have ample opportunity to spend time with my actual Italian family that still lives in Italy, and that living with a complete stranger would add to the stress of study abroad and perhaps even isolate me from my fellow students. Even though I was looking out for myself and thought that living with other American students was the best option for me, I didn’t see how closed-minded I was being. After speaking with my Italian professor, she helped me see things differently and I changed my mind about doing a homestay.

I realized that the homestay would be a challenge for me. However, what had changed my mind wasn’t my professor saying that I should do it, but instead it was her telling me to forget my fear of the homestay. She convinced me that my anxieties could be overcome by challenging myself. She spoke of the hospitality and openness of the hosts that Gonzaga in Florence offered and set-up for student. She helped me see that my experience abroad could be much more rewarding, not only for me but also for my host family, if I made the more difficult choice.

I had the opportunity to challenge myself, but more importantly, I forgot what I could bring and give to Italy. My homestay family has shared so much with my roommates and I about the Tuscan culture. Each day we eat traditional, home-cooked meals, we exchange ideas, and we joke and laugh. My host went out of her way to take care of me when I was sick with tonsillitis. She’s an amazing woman who somehow manages to work outside the home while also housing and looking after us three university students.

I have a hard time letting people take care of me, but I have found the best way to return the favor to my host. I get to stumble out of bed after a long night of homework and studying and make her smile. I get to step back from my fast-paced study abroad life and care about someone else. I thought that the homestay experience was about what I could gain, but I was wrong.

Gonzaga-In-Florence is about making your decisions worth it; it is about getting the most you can out of studying in another country. Yet, when I left for a long weekend away from Florence, my host unexpectedly reached out for a hug. I was going to have a great experience no matter what. It was then, for the first time, that I realized what I had given her. Patrizia was going to miss me and I was going to miss her too.

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