There truly is no place like home. I’m learning that more and more every day. There’s nothing like waking up in your own bed, making yourself a nice cup of coffee, and relaxing in your pajamas all morning. But, that is not what I’m going to promote in this blog post. No, I am going to talk about homestays.
“Homestay” is such a study abroad term. When you live in a homestay, you live, eat, and do everyday life with a local family in whatever culture you are studying in. For me, this means living with a Spanish family. When I was deciding whether or not I wanted to study abroad, there was not a doubt in my mind that if I did, I would live with a host family. Every professor or friend that I consulted told me that despite the enriching classes and memorable excursions I would have while studying abroad, living in a homestay would be my greatest and most valuable experience.
So, with that, I chose to live in a homestay in the south of Spain, and I could not be more excited to share with you my five top reasons to live in a homestay:
1. You feel included in the culture. In a homestay, you might live with just a host mother, an older couple, or an entire family. In my case, I live with a family of four and a dog. Usually, though, you become the host mother’s “baby,” as she will take care of you more so than anyone else in the family. Since the first day that I arrived in Spain, my host mother has been nothing but warm toward me and my roommate. She truly is the epitome of a Spanish mother: loud (in a good way), caring, concerned, passionate, and a dang good cook. She has welcomed me into her family as if I were one of her own. I even got to hold her four day old nephew and watch him get his first bath! I truly feel a part of the family and culture, and it’s all thanks to living in a homestay.
2. Food. Studying abroad, food is a big deal. It’s a part of the culture that everyone should experience no matter where they are studying. If you don’t live in a homestay, making your own food can turn into pasta and sandwiches every other night, and you might miss out on experiencing some of the best cuisine that the world has to offer. Thanks to my host mother, I have gotten to taste so many Spanish flavors! And thanks to my sneaky host father, I can now say that I have (accidentally) eaten pig’s blood! So, yeah. That’s always good…
3. Connections. Since living in a homestay, I have met aunts, uncles, friends, godparents, sisters, brothers, nephews, nieces, etc. Spanish families are huge! Walking down the street, I have seen many of my host family’s family and friends, and it makes me feel like I have a nice network of people in Granada that know me and are genuinely interested in how things are going while I am studying abroad. It’s like I have my own Spanish network of friends!
4. Fluency. For me, gaining better fluency in Spanish is very important to my time abroad. I want to speak as much Spanish as possible! Living in a homestay has helped make that a reality. Every day at mealtime, my roommate and I have the opportunity to ask our host family questions, debate news topics, talk about the weather, discuss tv shows, etc. And all in Spanish! I have learned so many little sayings or phrases from my host family that make speaking so much easier.
5. The Ins and Outs. My host family has helped me so much with getting used to living in a new city like Granada. They have shown me side street shortcuts, bus routes, supermarkets, and so much more around the city that I never would have known about had I not stayed with a host family. Having people around who are eager to share their city with you is so helpful!
So, in sum, if you are on the edge about living with a host family while abroad, I would say that you should go for it! So far, it has been a fabulous experience for me. And no, you might not be able to wake up in your own bed with your own coffee pot and free reign of the house for a few months, but the things that you will learn and be able to experience with a family of another culture will be immense. You might be living outside of your comfort zone for a while, but the ways in which you will grow as a person are immeasurable.