Wednesday, 8 April 2015

My Meet-a-Family Experience

I didn’t know anybody coming to Harlaxton.  Studying abroad meant that I would leave my family, my friends, and everything I was familiar with for four months.  That’s the longest I have ever been away from home—let alone having the experience take place overseas.  Some of my biggest fears at the beginning of the semester included homesickness and not being able to immerse myself in the British culture.  I worried about how much Harlaxton would feel like home.  How could it?  I would be living in an architectural phenomenon—nothing short of a miniature fairy tale castle. 

I expressed my concerns to a friend at my home campus that had previously done a semester abroad at Harlaxton.  She informed me about the Meet-a-Family Program offered in Harlaxton.  After filling out a short questionnaire application, any student could potentially be matched with a local family for the semester.  Of course, the student to family ratio didn’t guarantee a placement in the program, but I decided it was worth taking my chances.  And I am so happy I did.

The Meet-a-Family program has been a blessing throughout my semester at Harlaxton.  As the semester draws near to an end, I reflect back on how much I have gained through the opportunity.  My host parents, Jan and John, invited me into their home and treated me as if I were their own daughter.  They took the time out of their busy schedules to make England feel like home.

At the first Meet-a-Family dinner, I remember giving my host mother a jar of maple syrup in a container shaped like a maple leaf.  We got to know each other and discovered mutual interests in Downton Abbey and desserts (or pudding).  It marked the beginning of my English family.  The relationship I’ve built with them traveling the English countryside, over home-cooked meals, and at their cozy cottage is a relationship that I will always value.  From taking me to Sempringham for my British Studies research to buying me chocolate from a candy shop to visiting Woolsthorpe Manor to solving crossword puzzles together in the afternoons to getting to know each other better over Afternoon Tea—I made some of my favorite Harlaxton memories with Jan and John.  They even offer to let me do laundry at their home—something unusual for families in the program.  I couldn’t have asked for better host parents. 

At the end of the month, Jan and John are taking me to Oliver!, a musical in Uppingham. Both acted with the company in previous productions, so I am excited to learn more about the musical theatre world through their commentary.  It makes me sad that it will be my last visit with them for the semester, but I know that because of my time with them through the Meet-a-Family program, I forever have a family in England.  I plan to visit my English “home” again one day.

I am so thankful I got the chance to participate in the Meet-a-Family program during my time at Harlaxton.  Any fears and reservations I had at the beginning of the semester have disappeared.  I have truly gained a second home.  I would recommend the Meet-a-Family program to anybody coming to Harlaxton.  Wonderful people like Jan and John make the Harlaxton experience even better.
-Mackenzie Amundsen

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