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Housing Overseas: Homestay or Apartment Abroad?

by Brianna Kraemer and Jackie Brock
Building Facade in Madrid, Spain | AIFS Study Abroad

Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Brianna Kraemer and Jackie Brock

Choosing between a homestay and an apartment when you study abroad can be a difficult decision. They both can influence your experience abroad and each option offers different opportunities. We have spent the last three months studying abroad in Madrid, Spain and both have had different experiences from living in an apartment versus a homestay.

Having two different perspectives living in the same city, we want to share our viewpoints and give some insight to anyone considering one of these housing options.

1. Jackie’s Experience in a Homestay Abroad

I was really nervous about choosing the homestay at first because the idea of living with a random person or host family was really intimidating. However, I ended up choosing the homestay because I wanted to improve my Spanish as much as possible and be immersed into the Spanish lifestyle. Having meals cooked for me, my own room, and my laundry done for me were definitely added perks.

One of the many delicious meals my host mom cooked in my homestay.

AIFS sent me information about my homestay a few weeks before I left for Spain and I found out I’d be living with an older woman who had been hosting students for many years with one other student from my program. I was really nervous about meeting my host mom and communicating since I’d be using Spanish all the time with her. However, she was so kind when I met her and also understood that the adjustment would be difficult.

I ended up having three other housemates and we have gotten to know each other really well throughout the semester. One of my favorite parts of my day is coming back to my homestay and eating dinner (home-cooked!) with them and talking about our days. I feel really lucky to have a caring host mom and friends at my homestay.

A lot of my friends have asked me if I feel less independent or restricted at my homestay, and although I am living with a host mom, I can still come and go as I please and don’t have a curfew. Like being a good roommate in college, I am respectful and try to be quiet late at night and early in the morning, and I try to let my host mom know when I am planning on coming back late. Having good communication and openness to cultural differences is key to having a great homestay experience and I’m so glad I chose to do it.

2. Brianna’s Experience in an Apartment Abroad

There are many different things that played into my decision to live in an apartment in Madrid rather than a homestay. I was a little hesitant to choose a homestay because of the unknown of living with a random family, but I quickly learned that was something to not be afraid of because all of my friends in homestays were set up with great families and living situations. I felt that an apartment would allow me to have more freedom and also help me to become more independent.

There are six of us girls living in one big apartment with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a nice living room. The first time I walked into our apartment, I was very impressed with the size and set up of the place. It is fully furnished with everything from bedding and towels to things like dishes and furniture. I had the option to pay in advance for a meal allowance, which is a nice way to budget money throughout the semester. More money is added to the card every couple of weeks and helps to cover the cost of groceries and food. Cooking at the apartment was cheaper but going out for lunch after class and sometimes for dinner was nice and a good way to socialize.

My bedroom in my apartment in Madrid.

The greatest benefit of living in an apartment abroad was the ability to make friends quickly and always have people to do things with. From day one we were a group because we had no one else but each other. Hanging out in the living room at night, doing homework, and listening to music was a nice way to spend time when our family and other friends weren’t around.

With the positives comes a few downsides to the apartment that I think everyone should consider before choosing one over the other. Living on my own also means cooking food for myself, so no home cooked meals were available to me. I also did not speak any Spanish at home since I lived with all American students, so I did not speak the language as much as anticipated. With that being said, living on my own has given me confidence to be self-sufficient and I think that will help me as I continue to grow and graduate from college.

Apartment Building Facade in Madrid, Spain | AIFS Study Abroad
Student Blogger

AIFS Program: Madrid, Spain | Bio: My name is Brianna Kraemer and I am a junior at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. I am studying communications and Spanish and that is why I chose to study abroad in Madrid, Spain. I have been learning Spanish for several years and am excited to finally use it in the real world. I am originally from Minnesota but have lived in Pennsylvania and the Virgin Islands too. I’m looking forward to blogging my experiences abroad!

Student Blogger

AIFS Program: Madrid, Spain | School: University of St. Thomas | Bio: My name is Jackie and I’m a junior at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota studying Communication and Journalism and Spanish. I am passionate about learning about other cultures, which is why I am studying abroad in Madrid at Universidad Nebrija for the 2019-2020 academic year! I can’t wait to explore everything Madrid has to offer, from museums and parks, to all the restaurants and shopping. I am also looking forward to traveling to other places in Spain and throughout Europe during my time abroad. A fun fact about me is that I have already studied abroad once in Rome!

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