Trust your heart
As I stared at the housing application, I began to reconsider what I have always imagined myself doing: staying with a host family. A sea of doubts ran through my mind: I wouldn’t have my own space, I might not get along with them, they might be controlling — and honestly, it was just another uncertainty added to the list of the unknown. I came to the realization that if I absolutely don’t like where I end up, I can relocate. I decided to stick with my gut and go with the homestay.
The friendly taxi driver pulled directly in front of the apartment and I rang the buzzer. My host mom was there as soon as the door to the tiny elevator opened onto the 6th floor and she greeted me with a big, welcoming smile. Instantly, I felt my worries drift away. She gave me the run down of what I needed to know about my new temporary home and fixed me my first dinner as we got to know each other. I learned she speaks absolutely no English, so my Spanish practice began immediately!
Focus on what matters
In my Spanish home, I live with my roommate from Pittsburg, PA and my host mother. She has three children, grown-up with their own homes and kids, each on a different part of the Spanish coast — lucky grandmother. Although each family structure varies in terms of who lives in the home and how things are done, after talking with my friends who live in homestays, I learned there are benefits to each one. But there is one commonality amongst them all: when you live with a family, everything is taken care of.
The only real responsibilities I had were to be on time for meals, make my bed in the morning and be a respectful guest. Simple, right? This gives me more free time than I have had since high school. My host mom cooks, does the laundry, changes our bed sheets; I mean, living here is so easy because she does everything she can to make us feel as comfortable as possible and still gives us our space. It is greatly appreciated and words couldn’t express our gratitude. You’re given zero excuses to not explore the city, travel and just get out of the house.
Whenever I have questions about the city or need advice on anything, I know I can always turn to my host mom who is a wealth of knowledge. She takes full advantage of living in this beautiful city that I have learned a thing or two on how to follow in her steps. I have also discovered more about the culture and Granadinos way of life in general just by chatting it up with her. She loves to converse, whether it’s during meals, on the phone, or with friends. This makes it easy to talk about anything I have in mind with her.
We recently talked about tapas, appetizers that come with any drink you order. Yes, this is as just as incredible as it sounds. I told her about Bar Manolo, a place that served a baked potato tapa topped with sour cream. She said this is what they always serve with the first drink and it’s common for other bars to do the same. This is an especially useful tip for vegetarians — or you might end up with a giant ball of hummus with two mini crackers or a plate of plain Jane greens. A.K.A. a sad tapa.
Exposure to new foods
Food is a major part of any culture and shapes the experience. With three meals a day freshly prepared for by my host family, it’s unlike ordering the same dish at a restaurant. It is made with love, and I can taste the difference. A popular dish found in Granada that our host mom makes is croquetas. These are crisp, lightly fried balls of mashed potatoes, and they can be prepared with meat as well. She mentioned how much work and time goes into making these, which is why they are often expensive to purchase while eating out. I am always appreciative when I see a plate of these served at lunch.
I will definitely be taking some tips and recipes with me to use back in my apartment at school, especially the salads we have with lunch. Another favorite side dish is called ensalada de verano (summer salad), which is a simple, yet delectable dish passed down from her mother. It’s cooked potatoes, onions and parsley mixed together in olive oil and a bit of vinegar, finished with salt, and then cooled in the fridge. She also makes tasty comfort food soups with lentils or garbanzos. This list could go on and on so I’ve just included some photos so you can see for yourself.
Bottom line is, I love where I live and I know I will miss her when I leave.
This post was contributed by Latisha Jensen, who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in Granada, Spain.