Spoiler: This is the best weekend I spent abroad (so far). During orientation, Host is a program that is mentioned that allows students to spend a weekend with a family in the UK. You live, eat and maybe even work as if you are just another family member. Arcadia encourages Host so much that up to twenty pounds of travel costs are covered!
Many might not want to give up a free weekend when they can jet off to Paris, Rome, Amsterdam or Berlin instead. As I previously mentioned, I have seen quite a bit of Europe in the past. Host was appealing to me, as it would be a unique experience, and a way to see what living in England is really like. Also, I love the unknown. Applying to stay in a region of England not announced with a family I have never met caused me much excitement. So, I applied to Host quite literally my first week in London.
It took a bit of time, maybe three weeks, to be approved and placed with a family. After some fuss about my allergy to cats and my only two offers possessed cats, I was to be sent to Herefordshire, England on the second week of November. A woman named Elaine would be receiving me on her biodynamic farm in rural England, right on the cusp of Wales! I would be taking a four-hour bus from Victoria Coach Station for a mere 22 pounds! With Arcadia’s help, (we can all do the math) only 2 pounds out of pocket for a magical weekend away.
The morning of, I grabbed my bags, bought flowers for Elaine from the tube station, and headed to Victoria for my coach. Autumn had set in, and the ride over was an exquisite display of colored trees and foliage. Four hours went by very easily. Elaine told me via email that she would be wearing a purple jacket when she picked me up from the Hereford station, so that is what I looked for. Once we identified each other, I hopped into her car and off we went towards her farm. By this point it was dark; so, I couldn’t see much. Once we arrived, I met her good friend, Angie. Angie would be staying with us the entire weekend. The pair always do Host together. Elaine has the bigger home, so it is always held at her place. Dinner had been prepared by Angie while we were en route from the station. She created a lovely sweet potato and fish casserole.
Later that night they took me to a WW1 film in the town over. The weekend was filled with locally grown food, WW1 memorials (it was the weekend of the centennial), church services, choir concerts, exploring small villages, picking apples, tending to the farm animals, learning British culture and much more. At one point, I was brought to Wales to participate in the village’s festival. The villagers and I carried lit torches through the town following a dragon sculpture that was being carried away by horses.
These are those random moments in life you’d never thought you would be doing. I’ll never forget drinking wine in front of a real log fire chatting away with my hosts. Or helping chop the vegetables picked straight out of Elaine’s garden for our supper. Driving through Wales and England within the same half hour. Hiking trails that were vibrant with red and orange autumn hues. The whole weekend was out of a fairytale. My ticket was set for me to depart Sunday afternoon. I didn’t want to leave, so I bought a whole new ticket for Monday so I can stay an extra day! I’ll always remember this weekend fondly, and I passionately encourage any prospective Host student to apply and embark on their journey!