Common Homestay Misconceptions

Miranda Lipton is a student at The Ohio State University. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain

I chose to spend my semester abroad in a homestay because, admittedly, my school did not offer me an alternative! But before I knew that, I had still come to the conclusion that a homestay was the best option for me.

I spent winter break fantasizing about homemade Spanish dinners, emailed my host family (en español of course) expressing my overwhelming excitement, and could hardly sleep thinking about walking their three dogs around the streets of Barcelona.

On my last few days home though; my pre-departure panic was full-fledged. Everyone I know who is studying abroad in Barcelona left a day or two before me to move into their apartments. They raved about their apartments on every form of social media and posted pictures cooking group dinners with their six roommates. Instead of feeding off of their excitement, I started to question my own housing decision.

Instantly, and one day before departure, my daydreams turned into nightmares! I began imagining my hour-long commutes to the city from the deserted street that my house would surely be on, as everyone I know was living la vida loca in their downtown apartments. I was sure that while my friends were all out together at night, I would not be able to leave the house past 11 without waking the whole family!

These irrational fears failed to settle until the moment I arrived at my homestay apartment, conveniently located in the Gothic Quarter: the area that my friends in other living arrangements envy me for being in. The greatest restriction on my precious independence that I was so worried about, is remembering to let my host mom know when I won’t be back for dinner. AND I get two free meals a day; which means more money for travel!

If you prioritize learning the local language during your time abroad, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a homestay. As ideal as it sounds to think living in Spain coincides with constantly speaking Spanish, that is not the case. I speak English throughout the day with my American friends. I try my best to speak Spanish when I’m out; but truthfully, most locals don’t want to wait around while a tourist mentally conjugates a verb and tries to piece together sentences. The overwhelming majority of my conversations aside from “Quería la paella,” are with my host family during meals. I look forward to dinners as a time of designated language practice. Without this time, my language could not have progressed at the speed that it has.

And yes, there are plenty of nights when I sit at the table: catch about 25% of the conversation, and nod and say sí for the rest of the time. I’ve come to nod quite convincingly too! I’m still not sure whether they can tell when I’m totally lost or not. Either way, living with a family has offered me a glimpse into local life that I would not have otherwise gotten.

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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