Living with a Greek Family – Emily’s Homestay Experience

Every year Athens becomes a new home for hundreds of students who come to study at CYA. Most of them live in shared apartments in the CYA neighborhood, but some choose something different: living with a Greek family in homestay accommodation!

After living together for some months, students and host families form a special bond! Looking to find out more about the homestay experience, we visit CYA student Emily Xiao and her host parents, Mima and Loukas, in their house in Palaio Faliro, a coastal suburb of Athens.

Loukas and Mima welcome us into their home with huge smiles. Mima presents us with delicious cupcakes she has made herself using homemade strawberry jam, telling us, “I don’t use artificial flavorings or anything like that!” We then find out that Mima runs a small business cooking gluten-free food and sweets and delivering them around Athens!

Naturally, Emily tells us the food Mima cooks is delicious, and Mima adds: “I cannot label myself a typical Greek cook. We try to make some typical Greek things for Emily to try, like moussaka, fasolada, pastitsio, so at least she has an idea of what Greek cuisine is like, but I get bored easily, so there’s a lot of experimentation!

Emily also informs us that the weekly farmers’ market takes place right outside their house! “Here in Greece you get a lot of great fresh ingredients; in America it’s a lot harder.” The conversation reminds Loukas of the amazing food Emily’s parents cooked for them when they came to visit. “Chinese food. It was excellent! Homemade dumplings. They were AMAZING!” All three of them go on to describe how the two families came together to cook the dumplings. “Emily, Emily’s mum and I filled the dough, and Lukas and Emily’s dad followed up with the cooking!” Mima tells us.
Mima and Loukas are now invited to the Xiao’s home in Texas. “It’s a good thing for the parents to get to know the people your child is living with; you have an extra bond with this family, a connection,” says Mima.

We then ask Emily about her experience of living in a host family, and she replies: “Almost everything feels pleasant here. I would highly recommend it to people that are a bit more adventurous, more independent, more interested in traveling and foreign cultures. If I didn’t live here, I wouldn’t have such a good idea of Greek culture.
As for her favorite classes at CYA, “Art & Archaeology is cool because we get to go to different museums and sites; it’s a rare opportunity. Instead of looking at pictures like I would at home, you get to see the actual thing!

As we are speaking, two cats enter the room, and the family lets us know that one of them is almost blind. Emily calls that one “little criminal” because he steels pencils from her desk.

Whenever Emily goes on a trip she brings her host parents gifts. Last time it was this beautiful apron from Kalamata!”

There is a delicious smell coming from the kitchen, so we ask what’s cooking and Loukas jumps up as he remembers the baking pita. He comes back saying “Hmm, we might need to order souvlaki after all!” and everyone laughs. [Note: the pita ended up being delicious!]