Living abroad comes with many difficulties, as well as opportunities. It’s a way to see a new culture and explore new cities. Going to Spain, it’s very popular to live with a host family. Although there are opportunities to live in apartments or dorms, living with a host family is the right way to go in Spain.
Here are some of my reasons why:
Deeper understanding of culture
I’ve come to learn that the Spanish culture is very warm and welcoming. Spanish people are excited that you came all the way from the United States to visit their country, and they want to do all they can in order to ensure your comfort. They ask all kinds of questions about how you like Spain, what brought you here, where you are from . . . a lot of icebreaker questions. There’s a deeper meaning behind it; they ask those questions with intense curiosity and excitement. They truly care for your opinion about their city and want to understand a different perspective of life as well.
The instant I arrived at my host family, I felt at home and at peace. The family treats me as their own and I can come and go as I please. They are easy-going, they love answering any of my questions about Spain, and they give me a surplus of advice when it comes to travel.
My host mom adores traveling. She and I discuss cities I should visit across Europe, as well as within Spain. Most of the time the cities are new to me, but that means I have more opportunities for exploring. Having a European’s perspective on travel takes you to the locations where more European tourists and less Americans will be, which is something I’d rather do. Along with offering travel advice, they cook authentic Spanish cuisine for you at each meal. Sitting down and eating with the family allows you to get to know one another and share some time with people who are different than you.
Living in an apartment leaves you to your abilities to cook food and you may end up spending most of your time with fellow Americans. It keeps students in their comfort zone, but living with a Spanish family is just enough outside the comfort zone that the experience allows for growth.
Often times, people come to Spain to take Spanish courses and develop their language use (go figure!). What better way to do that than live with locals who only speak Spanish?
In my host family, no one speaks any English. There are challenges that come with that, but with plenty of charades, talking with big hand gestures, and a lot of explanations, we can get the message across.
Host families force you to speak Spanish on a daily basis, and I find myself growing little by little with more practice. Not only am I speaking, but I consume it on a daily basis when I watch the news and TV shows with my family.
Again, living in an apartment allows for more independence, but many students are here to study Spanish. The apartment keeps students in their comfort zone and allows students to more frequently use English. Spanish may be spoken in classes, but the use may stop once students in apartments go home. Homestays give you the opportunity to use it all day, everyday.
My last point regards maintaining connections. Students can stay in touch with their families through social media and exchanging phone numbers. By living with a homestay, you have family across the world!
The family cares enough about you to the point where they want to remain in your life as well. It’s important to stay in touch and keep them updated on your life, and vice versa. I lived in a homestay this past summer in Costa Rica and I stay in touch with them. It gives me more of a reason to return to Costa Rica. That country has become more than a place to me, but a second home.
The same happens with students who choose homestays in Spain. It becomes another home to them, giving them more reasons to return to visit. There are now people to visit moreso than just places. People are the ones that make the city or country great, not just the historical buildings and sites.
It’s the people of a certain country and your interactions with them. They give the country a little shine in your memories and those memories embody a more wholesome feeling when reflecting on the time spent there.
Living with a family is how people remember the place with more love and passion, because it is the people involved that make or break the experience.
Taylor O’Connor is a student at Arizona State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Seville, Spain.
It is so sweet how host families treat with students. it’s really like a second family.
And the fact that you get the opportunity to practice Spanish not only during classes is very cool! I don’t learn Spanish, but I think the constant contact with nice people gives me good practice in learning the language.