One of the best ways to truly experience a country’s culture is by connecting with locals and learning their way of life. A great way to get this true experience is by staying with a family in that country. While I was not in a host family during my semester abroad, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity of staying with a family during a weekend trip to Cairo, Egypt. It was definitely one of the most satisfying trips I was able to take while abroad, thanks to a friend of mine I made at UK!
Mohamed is an international student at UK from Cairo; we lived in the same dorm freshman year and he always told us to visit him in Egypt, but it wasn’t until I was abroad that the opportunity really came available. I studied in Cyprus and once I got there I realized how easy it was to travel to Cairo, and several students in my program began booking trips to see the Pyramids! After deciding to go I contacted Mohamed back in Kentucky to ask for some advice about traveling to his country, and as soon as I told him he offered that my friends and I should stay with his family in Cairo. While this wouldn’t be as common of a gesture made in the U.S. especially since Mohamed would not be there, I felt as if we were imposing but he assured that his family would be happy to have us.
I will forever be grateful to Mohamed for this welcoming gesture as it led to an unforgettable experience. Mohamed’s sister, Dina, along with several of his friends and cousins, were also college students in Egypt, and were so generous to open up their home and show us around Cairo. They took us out to a few of their favorite local places, as well as the Pyramids, the museums, the Cairo Tower, the Bazaar, and even more. Through this experience we were not only able to see these amazing sights in the world, but we were able to create relationships and make friends with a family of a different culture.
Being able to stay with a local family, we were able to see the culture of how Egyptians decorate their homes, what they eat, and the community they live in. The décor of their family homes were beautiful, decorated in traditional white and gold furniture and amazing wall pieces. Dina and her mother were also so kind to cook us traditional Egyptian meals, both for breakfast and dinner. Dining in Egypt is a little different than at home as no matter what they eat; it is always served with pita bread or rice. For breakfast they laid out several different dips, cheeses, eggs, and more on family style serving plates in which you used your pita bread as a plate and put the food on it. We also were able to try several different types of fresh fish for dinner, some of which were the best fish I had ever tasted!
Through this experience I was able to learn so much more about Egypt than I did about many other countries that I visited. I also was able to make some new awesome friends who I still enjoy communicating with and hope to see again. The hospitality and kindness showed to me and my friends by Mohamed’s family has definitely inspired me to be more open to international students visiting the U.S. and I hope that one day I get the opportunity to welcome someone into my home as they did for me.
Macy is a junior studying Accounting and Marketing with an International Business minor at the University of Kentucky. She studied abroad at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus in the fall of 2016.