l-r: Jose, me, Maria and Martina
Choosing your living arrangements are often one of the most nerve-wracking decisions you'll have to make as a future study abroad student. I often hear people say that they're going to choose a private apartment or school dorms in lieu of taking the chance of living with a foreign family- a homestay. Desiring to learn as much as I could about Spain (and not to end up like the girls in the movie Taken) I took a chance and checked off the "homestay" box on my study abroad form. Let me tell you just some of the reasons I loved taking the chance on living with a Spanish family.
The food. Maria provided us three meals a day, everyday. True to Spanish form, we received a very light breakfast, a gigantic Thanksgiving sized lunch around 2 p.m., and a smaller dinner between 8 and 9 p.m. The smells wafting from the kitchen before lunch everyday were nothing short of tantalizing, and from Paella to flan, I got it all- homemade.
The culture. What better way to experience Spanish culture than by living with Spaniards?! One of my favorite Spanish moments was when Jose began yelling from the living room, "ABBEEE! NATALIA! Venga venga, mira!" (Come come, watch!) What had him so captivated? A bullfight. No kidding, Jose loved bullfights and soccer games almost more than my southern dad loves Tennessee football- and that's a lot.
Everything was done for us. Although that sounds kind of spoiled, believe me, you will treasure being able to explore a new country without worrying about paying rent, cooking dinner, or doing laundry.
The family aspect. I love to travel and I hadn't felt homesickness since I was in elementary school. Having been the last thing on my radar, that's of course one of the first things I experienced. As if that wasn't enough, I was having a few issues at home that I was really upset about. Maria, Jose and the kids never let me mope and always made me feel at home and cared for. When it was time for me to leave Spain, Maria gave me a giant hug and dos besos, the Spanish tradition of a kiss on each cheek, and told me, "Don't be sad, because my family is a little bigger now. I will always consider you two (my roommate and I) my second daughters." Talk about a tearjerker.
Although I realize not every homestay experience is as great as mine was, I think several things played into my experience: open-mindedness, communication, and respect. Combine those things with a great family and you're golden.
Have you lived with a homestay? How did it go?