How I Hit The Jackpot With My Abroad Homestay

Isabel McCan is a student at University of Denver and an ISA Featured Blogger. Isabel is currently studying abroad in Buenos Aires on an ISA Fall 1 program.

My host mom, Lili, and I!

It’s hard to say how I scored such a great homestay down here in Buenos Aires. Either the painstaking amount of time I took to fill out my housing questionnaire paid off, or ISA is just really great at putting together homestays, or fate just decided to cut me a big fat break… regardless the reason though, I’m seriously fortunate to be in such a fantastic homestay and I’m going to be bummed out to have to leave it. So what makes my homestay so totally fantabulously awesome? Well, keep reading to find out.

Clearly the primary reason my homestay is go great would be my host mom Lili. Lili is a widow with two grown daughters, so our homestay consists of me, my housemate Natasha, and Lili. I’ve heard some horror stories from other kids about their homestay parents – everything from apathy, to strange habits, to treating the students like children. Lili on the other hand, is an angel. Our apartment is tidy, (except my room usually) yet she has never bothered me to keep it a certain way. Granted, my housemate and I always volunteer to wash the dishes after dinner but that is just plain courtesy and is never because she asked us to. She never bugs us to ask where we are

going or when we will be back, just a simple “Tened cuidado chicas!” which means “Be careful girls!”.  She is very open-minded and we have engaged in some seriously thought-provoking conversations during dinner.

My host mom!

Speaking of dinner, Lili makes the best food! She always calls us to the kitchen with a phrase that my housemate and I will be able to mimic perfectly for the rest of our lives – “Chicaaaas, vengan a comer!” – she says it with the exact same tone and inflection everytime. It resonates perfectly in my head. But seriously, Lili puts all restaurants here to shame, and I make it a point to attend Lili’s dinner at all costs. If a friend asks me to do anything that requires me to not be home for dinner, it’s usually a deal breaker. I’m not trying to go spend money on a sub-par dinner somewhere when I could get crazy good food, homemade, for free. That’s just plain logic.

So now, just imagine the homemade pizza, or the flakiest and heartiest empanadas in Buenos Aires, or the homemade tortas (which are basically big quiches, but way better) made with corn, spinach or onions with a warm layer of butternut squash on top. Yep. Or go ahead and imagine the juicy choripan (sausage sandwich) or the best milanesas (types: eggplant, chicken, beef) this side of the Andean mountain range. And those are just the dinners that I can specifically remember. Oh did I mention every dinner comes with a yummy salad? Tonight we had arugula salad with parmesan flakes and baked chicken. Sometimes we get homemade strawberry shortcake for dessert. Jealous yet? But I’m just boasting now so I’ll stop.

Lili has taught me some great cooking techniques and easy recipes that I’m definitely going to take back to the States with me. The best part about her cooking is that it is all really healthy stuff, except for maybe the choripan… but choripan is too delicious for me to care.

And let me just note – I participated in a three week long volunteer program in Peru last summer and in my homestay there I got a fried egg for just about every meal. Breakfast? Fried egg… okay that’s acceptable. Dinner? Another fried egg… this time with some rice. And I can deal with fried eggs for a while but three weeks and probably a few dozen fried eggs later I couldn’t even look at them without gagging. Thus my expectation for the homestay food down here was pretty low, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of food I was receiving from Lili.

One of the other reasons why Lili is a great host mother – she teaches yoga in her living room twice a week! So that means free yoga classes for me! I don’t even have to leave my apartment or pay a penny to take yoga. Thank you Lili!

Moving on, one of the other reasons why I love my homestay – my housemate Natasha. I knew after going to Peru and having a housemate there that I definitely wanted one again. It is much less awkward around the house if you have another English speaker with you. But I didn’t expect that I would actually like her so much! For real though, Tash is definitely one of my closest friends down here. We go out together, go running together, visit museums together, eat churros from our favorite Churreria together, rag on Barrio Chino (Buenos Aires’ Chinatown) when we walk through it (which is like everyday) and we yell at all the creepy guys who cat-call us together (which is also pretty much everday). I hate to use the cliché but we are pretty much two peas in a pod. Coincidentally we are both Journalism majors that both have a penchant for photography and talking politics, or whatever societal conversation we get into with Lili at dinner. What is even cooler is that Natasha goes to school at Colorado State University, and since I live in Denver that means we are only about an hour or so away from each other when we get back to the states! I foresee some couch-crashin’ in our futures. ISA did a really great job pairing us together.

Me and my roommate Natasha at Iguazu Falls

Probably the only downside of my homestay is that I’m at least a 15-20 block walk away from basically everything (besides the Barrio Chino…) so it takes me awhile to go anywhere. I have to leave for school at the very least 30 minutes ahead to get there on time. But hey, I just consider it good exercise. Glass always half full, right? Plus with all the great aspects of my homestay, a little distance to walk isn’t much to worry about.

If you’re going abroad soon and receive your housing questionnaire, take the time to really fill it out well, with detail, and be honest on it. That is what I did and I really think the extra effort helped me in getting placed with such a wonderful homestay. Anyways, sometimes people get really lucky with their homestays, some just don’t. I just happen to be one of the chosen few, and for this I am very grateful.

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