I’ve been able to tick this one off my bucket list. Not once, but twice.
The first time I lived in a country like a local, or I like to think I did at least, was when, during my gap year, I went on a 10 month exchange to Australia. I lived with an Australian host family and attended an Australian high school. I ate Australian things (I still have nightmares about Vegemite), experienced Australian events (Christmas on the beach?) and said Australian things (Let’s have a sausage sizzle at the beach this arvo, but don’t forget your sunnies!), I encountered Australian animals (a koala pooped on me), I learned how (not) to surf, I wore a school uniform, I improved my English (and Aussie slang, which should be a language in itself), I learned that ‘no worries’ was indeed a better motto to live by. It was the best time. It was missing people, no matter what place I was in because all of a sudden I had two homes. It was heartbreaking. But it was also… totally worth it. I think even up until today, I can drive people crazy by talking about the land Down Under way too often. But I guess there’s worse things to be addicted to.
That was in 2011-2012. In 2014 I got a second opportunity to go ‘live like a local’, when I went on my Erasmus exchange to Sweden. This time was different, a more international experience. And this time, I was on my own, without the support of a host family. So yes, both entirely different experiences, at an entirely different age, in an entirely different country, but both key to, well, me.