Going into my home-stay experience, I was unsure of what to expect, and needless to say, I was terrified: a family of strangers, a foreign language, and a town in a far away country that I’d never been to before. What was I getting myself into?After three weeks, it is safe to say that I’m just as sad to leave my host family as I was nervous to meet them. For three weeks, this Hungarian family, their neighbors, and friends, took me in as one of their own. I was not only brought in as a member of the family but as a member of the community as I taught English in the little Transylvanian village.
My last week in Szalard kicked off with a weekend festival known in the town as “Village Days,” a unique mix of a neighborhood block party and a state fair. The event blended the classics—bumper cars, cotton candy, and plenty of drinks— with a small neighborhood atmosphere: you couldn’t turn around without seeing someone else that you knew. For me, this included some of my 50 students who shyly smiled and waved and also the older kids in town with whom I spent most of the weekends.
During the day, the festival featured dance performances, but by nightfall, a DJ and live bands took the stage and played a variety of popular Romanian, Hungarian, and American songs. On Saturday night, the music blasted until after 3:00 am, with many of the older kids, including myself, staying out until the sun rose around 5:00 am.
Sunday was decidedly tamer than Saturday with most people preparing for work on Monday. In the morning, there was also a joint religious service held that in the morning, which unfortunately I did not wake up for, between the village’s main religious groups, including the Catholics and Protestants. The festivities continued that evening with a fireworks display held just before midnight.
As my final days in the classroom rolled around on Monday, I decided to teach my older group a classic American gym class game: Capture the Flag. After pushing through the language barrier and resolving any hesitation about the rules, they quickly picked up on how to play. The game reminded me so much of gym class at home—one hero sprinting across the field as the rest of his or her teammates cheered wildly for them to bring back the flag to their side and win the game. Each day after that first game, I was always asked the same question: “can we play capture the flag today?”
For my last night with my host family, my host sister, host brother, and I sat down and watched a movie together. It reminded me of sitting down with my family at home to watch movies and also that in just three short weeks, I felt like I had become a part of this family.
My final week with them went by very quickly, as did the entire three-week stay. When the time came to finally leave, we all found ourselves saying how quickly the time had gone. However, we also reminded each other that the next location I will be staying in is only about a 10-minute drive away. I will definitely miss waking up every morning to a table of bread and jam with cottage cheese on the side, and it will be completely different not having my host mother tell me to “have some more!” every time I have an empty plate on the table. After three weeks, I definitely learned a lot with my host family about the culture and myself, and I am excited to see what the next three weeks in my new village will bring.