When I first decided on my study abroad program, I narrowed my program down based on a variety of factors, heavily including a homestay. I have heard stories from both sides of the spectrum on homestay experiences and I decided that I would rather live on my own than risk that of a homestay gone bad.
As part of the experience through Arcadia’s Galway program, though, was a weekend homestay in the coastal town of Cobh. Going into it, I had no idea what to expect. I packed a souvenir towel mapping out the beaches on the Jersey Shore as thanks for hosting me and went on my way. The four-hour drive was not the most welcoming first impression of Cobh, but my doubts went away immediately as we pulled up and I met my host family.
After receiving a short introduction of the historic town, our host families met us and drove us home for the weekend, mine including a couple with a 12-year-old daughter and a radiantly energetic dog. We were welcomed in to a home cooked meal, our own bedroom and a warm fire. We spent the evening talking about cultural differences between Ireland and America, ranging from schooling to politics, continually asking inquisitive questions about our backgrounds.
On Saturday, we woke up to an Irish breakfast and a delightful cup of coffee (probably one of the best I have had here in Ireland). Our host mom mapped out a list of places to check out and local shops to visit before dropping us off in the city center at the Cathedral.
We spent the morning on a Titanic experience where everyone was assigned the identity of a passenger who boarded at the Cobh port. At the end, we discovered whether we had survived or not; my identity was a 20-year-old who boarded with eight other friends and none of the group’s bodies were discovered or identifiable. While a sad ending, being at a port where so many passengers boarded with so little survivors was a learning experience I would not have traded.
We then trotted off to Cork City, a short train ride from Cobh, and explored the English Market, small shops, and of course, ice cream. On our way to head home for dinner we decided to head into town that evening to get into character to help Sherlock Holmes uncover his last mystery at the adventure rooms of Escapade Cobh.
We successfully completed the mystery and escaped the room with 13 minutes to spare, with the help of a few hints of course. It not only rivetingly challenged our group, but it was an exciting way to finish our weekend in Cobh.
My homestay experience was definitely one I am going to remember from my study abroad and my homestay family will always have a special place in my heart. In just one weekend, the family welcomed us in with open arms, made us apart of their family and made sure we got the most out of the time we had in their prided town.
After this experience, I would highly recommend a homestay to anyone who is on the fence. My mind has been utterly turned and this was an experience like no other. I learned how to immerse myself in the Irish culture while seeing the hearts of an Irish family.