Why I’m Living with a Spanish Host Family

So, you’ve decided that you want to go on a gap year or summer program–excellent!  You now have a couple important decisions to make: where do you want to study? What do you want to study? And what kind of housing accommodations do you want to live in while abroad?   The staff at Aspire by API fully believes in the value of a home stay experience, especially when you’re looking to immerse yourself in a foreign culture–and we’re not the only ones!  Kerianne B. studied with us in Madrid, Spain.  Below, she shares some of her thoughts on host family living.

I chose to live with a host family to force myself to speak Spanish and truly learn the language. I am not of Spanish descent nor am I required to speak Spanish on a daily basis in the states. At home, I speak English with my family. And in Spanish class, well, it is highly encouraged to speak Spanish in the classroom, but it is mutually understood that my teachers are bilingual and therefore, are able to understand you if you fall back on English when Spanish proves to be too difficult.
I have taken Spanish classes for years, but I’ve realized that while I am learning the language, I haven’t necessarily really learned to speak and use it for day to day activities. The fact of the matter is, I didn’t need it to survive on a daily basis—to find where I need to go, to order the food I wish to eat, to explain how I feel—until now. Therefore, I knew I needed to put myself in a Spanish living environment: a Spanish host family. Yup, I checked off the ‘speaks only Spanish’ option on my housing preference form.
So how do I feel about living with a host family? Best decision I’ve made so far other than, of course, deciding to live and study in a foreign country for a year, well, nine months.  And here are a few reasons why I feel this way. Not only does my host family—my host mom and dad—speak Spanish, but they also actually know the city I am living in. Fancy that, huh? While my roommate and I were getting acquainted with Madrid the first couple of days, we realized that our best resource was standing right in front of is, cooking us our dinner—oh yes, I’ll get to that perk later.
In the states, knowing where to buy any type of hygiene product, food item or even where to buy a stamp is common knowledge. Here in Madrid, or Europe for that matter, these products are sold in different locations. What do you mean I can’t buy shampoo and nail polish remover in a pharmacy, or farmacía? I have to go to a tobacco shop to buy a stamp? These questions can easily be answered by those who are knowledgeable of the city, also known as a host family (the Resident Directors are also great resources—they live here, too!).

 

My host mom enjoys taking walks while the sun is setting; one day, my roommate and I decided it would be a fabulous idea to go along with her: we walked to Plaza de Oriente, past Palacio Real, through Jardines de Sabatini, and this is where we ended up:

Study Abroad Gap Year Programs in Madrid, Spain - Park
(Side note: I forgot my camera on our initial walk, but returned to visually document yet another beautiful place in Madrid)

Aside from being able to learn the Spanish language, living with a host family gives me the chance to learn about Spanish culture, including food from gazpacho to tortilla española to a sweet melon that I can´t refuse for dessert. Trust me, I love food and my host mom is fully aware of this; from the beginning, I explained that I eat anything and everything, and I’m open to trying new things. She feeds me well; I can’t complain. Words cannot explain and pictures can only do her an ounce of justice, but here are some samples of meals to make your mouth water.

Study Abroad Gap Year Programs in Madrid, Spain - Host family food

Overall, I highly recommend living with a host family. If you’ve made the decision to study abroad, you´re already open to new situations and challenges, so why not decide to fully immerse yourself in the language and culture? Take the risk and you will see that in the end, it was entirely worth it.

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