With only a few weeks left in my study abroad experience, I think it’s time to highlight a major part of it: the apartment life!
Upon entering the program, I had the choice of staying with a host family or living in an apartment. At first, I was enthused at the opportunity to live with a local family and really engage and submerge myself into the Spanish culture. Due to financial reasons, I was left with the choice to either not participate in the program or stay in an apartment, as the cost was included in the program price. Of course, I was not going to let my study abroad experience be ruined because of a minor setback, so I opted for the apartment.
After spending hours researching and looking through the AIFS blog posts to find “reviews” of apartment life, I was instead met with a plethora of posts about the joys of staying with a host family. I happened to stumble across one post that briefly talked about the independence that would come with staying in an apartment. This point was nothing short of the truth and surprisingly provided me comfort in my decision.
My apartment ended up being right off one the main streets, Calle Toro. I literally walk out of my apartment to stores like H&M, Pimkie, and Zara — I’m still trying to decide if that is a blessing or a curse. My apartment is just around the corner from the Plaza and a short walk from the grocery store, various restaurants, and the building where my classes are held. One con of living on a major street is the noise. Salamanca has a very active day and nightlife, so the sounds outside often resonate through my bedroom.
My biggest advice when choosing between the two options — homestay vs. apartment — would be to truthfully analyze yourself and think about your personality and character traits. One of my biggest concerns was the food. I am a very picky eater, so the thought of having someone possibly cooking food that I wouldn’t enjoy was a scary one. Living in the apartment allowed me to cook my own meals and not worry about my selective taste palate. I also wanted the time flexibility to eat when I wanted, as opposed to the homestay option where your host parents would prepare food at a particular time.
Another benefit of the apartment is that I had two students from France in my apartment, so I was exposed to much more than just Spanish culture. Often times in apartment life there will be other international students that will live with you, which can be a bonus. The apartment was very spacious and I overall enjoyed having my own space, as well as the freedom to do things last-minute. Studying abroad can be overwhelming at times, and there were times I appreciated having my own space to handle the stress.
There are pros and cons to any experience so no matter where you stay, your experience is what you make it. Don’t think that because you are not staying with a host family that you can’t immerse yourself into the culture. You’ll have ample time to engage and interact with the local atmosphere. If you step outside your comfort zone, meet new people, and try new things, you’ll get much more out of your experience. Come into your new environment with an open mind and try to remain positive throughout your time.