It has been a whirlwind since the moment I landed in Spain. I first arrived in Madrid and spent a day sight-seeing. The next day, I spent my birthday in Toledo, then finally made it to Malaga. It has been two weeks now, I have settled in and classes have started. Even though, it has been only a couple of weeks I can confidently say that I had made the right choice by choosing to live with a homestay.
My homestay is directly in the lively and beautiful center of Malaga, El Centro. I have a lovely view of the cathedral outside my window and of the city itself. Everything is easily accessible. The beach is barely a five to fifteen-minute walk away. My host mother is amazing and she never leaves me hungry. I am very grateful to live in such an amazing homestay; I had no idea that it was going to be this nice! Before I arrived in Malaga, I chose to live with a homestay over other options (residencia, apartment, etc.) because it was cheaper and there was more opportunity for both Spanish language and cultural immersion.
Only the homestay option was presented at my university when we were being informed on housing. Yet, while sitting in a workshop about study abroad, a student asked about the residencia option. Our university highly recommended for us to stay with a host family because it was not only cheaper, but we would be able to gain the whole experience of living in Spain. I had never heard that there were other options for housing and assumed that living with a host family was ideal. At that point, I had already confirmed my choice as a homestay and decided against switching my housing option because I was eager to experience cultural immersion and it seemed as though living with a host family was more affordable.
One of my main reasons why I picked the homestay is because of language immersion. I had taken Spanish classes from pre-k all the way up to my sophomore year of high school (almost ten years of Spanish classes). Yet, I am still not fluent. My Spanish teachers were not the best, and to be fair I was not the best student in those classes. I did not practice outside of class, nor did I speak it every day. I reached Spanish level 3-4, or intermediate before I dropped it. I actually hated my Spanish class, and I dropped the subject as soon as I could so it wouldn’t affect my GPA.
All that to say, I am not taking any Spanish courses here in Malaga; all of my classes are taught in English and count towards my degree. However, I still want to be fluent in Spanish and learn more about the language, but not in a classroom setting. I believe I have learned all that I can from textbook learning and I need to immerse myself in the language. Living in a homestay, I theorized, would help me achieve that goal. Though it has only been two weeks, I can already see my Spanish improving. When I landed, I barely wanted to speak Spanish. Now, that I am comfortable with my host mother, I speak it daily. Though the conversations are not deep or complex, my Spanish is slowly growing to where we are starting to have much more complex conversations.
Besides finances and language immersion, I wanted to get the full experience of living in Spain. I desire to try different food, listen to different music, and see a different way of living. I know that Europe is westernized and will not be extremely different from the US. Yet, there are little things and certain etiquette that is always different from place to place; even in different states. I also have always been exposed to Latin American culture through family and friends; which is vastly different from Latin Europe. The food is definitely not the same, nor is their way of living. There are similarities, like language, but even that is different. So, living in a homestay allows me to observe and interact directly. If I lived in a residencia or in an apartment, I probably would not have pushed myself out of my comfort zone to be exposed entirely. I am naturally an introvert and have introverted tendencies to retreat back into a comfortable space and stay there. Knowing this about myself, I placed myself in a homestay where I would have no choice but to experience Spanish culture. I am glad I did because I am enjoying it! I enjoy having meals with my host family every day, have conversations with them, and living in El Centro of Malaga.
All in all, I believe living in a homestay makes one appreciate the little things in both their own culture and another’s. There are certain things everyone is going to undoubtedly miss whether that be family and friends, or simply an American cheeseburger. Yet, once a person leaves a place they have lived for a period of time, they are also going to miss certain aspects of that environment. Whether they grew to love it or fell in love with it instantly. For example, I miss the fact I cannot take long hot showers, but I know that I am going to miss living right across from La Manquita (Cathedral of Malaga). In any of the options that you chose for your housing while studying abroad, you’ll have these experiences and new appreciations too. It does not have to be a homestay or a residencia, or an apartment. Choosing a homestay was not only a financial chose but also a personal one. These are just my reasons, and my experiences from two weeks of living in Malaga.