Prior to finalizing my decisions to study abroad I always knew that I wanted to stay with a host family to get the full experience of cultural immersion. I wanted to live in a house where they could help teach me the language, feed me authentic food and be a part of their everyday lives. But when it got closer to becoming a reality I began to get doubts about my decision to live with a family of strangers to me. Would they like me? Do they have insanely strict rules? Do they have children my age? Have they hosted anyone before? And most of all, would I fit into their family? All of these questions swirled around my head, but I refused to back down from the challenge ahead of me. I wanted so badly to create a bond with a family who grew up in a completely different social environment than myself because I wanted to prove to myself that I had the ability to connect with people on a personal level regardless of our cultural differences. I have always felt a strong connection to my family and as I thought about joining someone else’s for some time I hoped the connections I made with my host family would be similar to my own.
When I first received the contact information for my host family I immediately messaged them on Facebook with the little Italian I knew along with the help of Google translator. After a couple of weeks of small talk on social media I noticed all my uncertainties slowly melt away. My host family seemed like a perfect fit for me. They had a daughter, Serena, who was around my age and I felt like that would help me to feel included and engaged in a normal teens life from Sorrento. I found myself hoping we would become great lifelong friends. My thought was that she was going to be my connection to the life of a young traveler in Sorrento. She would show me all the hotspots and introduce me to new young people as well. They also had three cats, which made me nervous because I am more of a dog person with a small allergy to cats but aside from that there was so much to look forward to and day dream about until I arrived in Sorrento.
Once I arrived in Sorrento and finally met them, any other doubts that may have remained left soon thereafter. They made me feel so welcome and at home. I was thrilled when I was able to bond with the entire family so easily. Serena became a good friend of mine just like I had hoped. We had dinner together every night, which was a nice atmosphere for me because in my family we usually grab our food and head to the couch or our rooms. I enjoyed their traditional outlook on family time and sharing a meal with one another. In their household we spent nearly every night chatting amongst one another about our day and what we had planned for the following day. It was so refreshing to have a home to go to every night where I felt like welcome. It was something unexpected but greatly appreciated while being so far from my own family. It made me appreciate time with my own family and changed the way I look at families from all over the world. It gave me a basic understanding that families, no matter where they live, are all somehow the same. The underlying base to every family is love and respect. I was lucky to find a host family that made me feel so loved. Especially traveling so far away from my own family, it was great for both myself and my parents that I was surrounded by pure love that you can only find in a home.
Destini was a spring 2017 SAI Sorrento student from the University of Tampa. She was also an SAI Ambassador for 2017/18.