I met my sister, Alba, when I was six years old. Well, she isn’t technically my sister, but for almost fifteen years that is what I have called her. When I was six years old, Alba was a Spanish exchange student who came to stay with my family. She came back to stay with us every summer for almost ten years, and she became a permanent part of my family. Because of Alba, I knew I wanted to have a homestay if I ever studied abroad, but I didn’t realize how different the experience would be to be an exchange student rather than to host one.
Despite its differences, I know this was the best decision I could have made. I know it is a bit scary to be in a stranger’s home, but you quickly transform from a stranger to a friend. In my first week, my host mom and I mostly talked about where I had to be when, and what sort of food I liked. But by the next week, we were talking about the cute boy on the Spanish game show Pasapalabras.
You probably don’t believe me, but that dinner taught me a lot about Spanish culture. The cute Spanish boy certainly wasn’t important, but what was important was eating authentic Spanish tortillas and croquetas at 8:45 while speaking broken Spanish. I know it doesn’t sound glamorous, but every night I eat home cooked Spanish meals (instead of grilled cheese like my apartment-bound friends) and I get a little bit of practice speaking the language. So if you really want to immerse yourself in Spanish culture, then a homestay is for you.
And if you are worried you won’t have the freedom to take part in the nightlife of your new home, you might be wrong. But I have good news (at least if you are in Spain). Going out is normal, and the locals here live it up in a way that I cannot. I got home from eating tapas around midnight and when I told my host mom at breakfast, she couldn’t believe that I came home so early.
My homestay has everything I could ever want. I have real Spanish food, friends, and freedom. Now that I am here with my host family, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else in Spain.