Homestay Weekend

Monday, February 29, 2016

I didn't actually stay in this castle (Lowther Castle) but we can pretend
One of the tenets of my study abroad program is the mandatory homestay weekend that all students must take part in.  During a homestay weekend, students are sent off to live with a family for the weekend, which will hopefully give some insight into what real life - not student life - is like in the UK. This past weekend was mine.

I was lucky to be paired with three other lovely girls to share my homestay with, and I honestly don't think the experience would have been nearly as enjoyable if I had just been on my own, or even if I had been with other people. One of the girls, Sarah, was my roommate from orientation, another, Taylor, was the only other student here from my home school, and I hadn't met the third, Amanda, but she was just as lovely as the first two. 

Our homestay was in Kirkby Stephen, which is in Cumbria, a county in Northern England. Our host mom, Sue, told us that Cumbria is a bit of a forgotten area of the UK - she said the English basically consider it part of Scotland because it's so far north, but the Scottish aren't interested in it at all. From what I saw, Cumbria is mostly farmland and rolling hills - including the massive dairy farm that we spent the weekend living on. 

The four of us stayed with a family of six, a mom and a dad and four kids to match us - Megan at 15, Michael at 14, Isabel at 7, and Alfie aged 5. We hadn't been expecting so many kids, because we'd only been told about Megan and Michael, but I think all four of us were pleasantly surprised to know there'd be little ones running around as well. I really like kids (kids don't seem to like me back quite as much, though), so I was super happy to meet them all. I'm choosing not to include any photos I have of the kids because they're not my kids so it's not my decision to post anything! 

In addition to having four kids, the family we stayed with had enough animals to give the Bronx Zoo a run for its money. There were dogs, chickens, hens, ducks, sheep, over 200 cows, and one cat. It smelled and sounded exactly how you might imagine. We got a tour around the farm from Michael and little Alfie while their dad milked the cows. It was incredible to see how knowledgable Michael is about the farm at only 15, and it warmed my heart when he told us he wants to take the farm over some day, following in his dad and his grandfather's footsteps. 

me and the bull bonding because we have the same nose ring. this was as close as i could get to him, as he's very aggressive 

During the day on Saturday, the four of us took a walk into town with our host mom and Isabel. We'd been told it was a bit of a walk, but I don't think any of us were expecting how much of a walk it actually would be. We clocked in at over 11 miles for the entire day - it took probably over an hour and a half to walk from the farm into town, along little streets lined with tractors and across massive, muddy, green fields. Once in town, we had lunch at the cafe where Megan works and then popped into two cute little shops, which included a candy store/sweet shop and our host mom's favorite boutique, where I bought fuzzy elephant socks on sale for £2.

On the walk to town
On Sunday, before we headed back to Edinburgh, we went along to a chapel service for Isabel's Girlguiding troop. It took place in the Methodist chapel in Kirkby Stephen, which really showcased how small of a town we were in. We had noticed over the course of the weekend how our host mother recognized nearly every car around and how everyone seemed to know her in the cafe, but it really came to life for me at church. It was clearly a community space and a community event, which I really liked. I've always seen myself living in a major city when I get older, but there's something I really like about a small town where everyone knows everyone else. Everyone seems to matter in a place like that, and it gives off a vibe that make me feel really good.

Overall, the weekend was a nice break from Edinburgh and a nice opportunity to talk to people I normally wouldn't spend time with. Although I didn't love sleeping on the top of a bunk bed and  potentially ruined my Adidas and smelled like cow for far too long, I'm glad I went. I should have spent the weekend working on my papers, due very soon, but I think this was a more enriching and educating experience overall anyway. I was, of course, glad to get back to my bed in Edinburgh. No surprise there.

we watched this sheep give birth to three baby lambs! Michael told us the babies are able to stand up within an hour of being born.

me and a horse friend

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