A host family is your family away from home. They are supposed to provide you with support, a perspective on how the locals live, and home cooked meals. Also, if you planned to increase your knowledge of a foreign language, live with a host family so you are truly forced to use the language with locals.
A Spanish exchange student lived across the hall from me my sophomore year. I interviewed her on her experience in the US. I also indulged her with a few of my personal questions. I had it figured out for a while that I would study abroad the summer of my senior year in Spain. I was minoring in Spanish and specializing in European studies within International studies. It just made sense. By the time I met Sandra, I had figured out that I wanted to study abroad in Granada. She told me it was a beautiful city with a lot of college aged people living there. Sandra also gave me a great piece of advice by telling me that if I really wanted to improve my Spanish, I should live with a host family, not in a dorm with a bunch of Americans.
I couldn’t be happier that I took her advice. My host parents in Granada, Spain were the best. I lived with Maria and Geronimo. Maria was so spunky and had a heart of gold. She loved to talk. Whenever we asked her what her favorite was, she would say “todo.” Geronimo had a large stomach and would waddle. He was a man of few words, but so kind. Our breakfasts were a little awkward with him preparing it and us trying to make conversation but would only offer up a few words.
Maria and Geronimo didn’t speak a lick of English. At first, it was difficult to communicate. I was scared to speak Spanish in front of them because I didn’t want to look stupid. My host parents encouraged me to speak more and politely corrected me when they had to.
Though I had my own room, there was also a girl from my program who lived in the same house. It was nice to have her support. We were able to help each other out to communicate words we didn’t know in Spanish. Abby was the best roommate. I couldn’t imagine my study abroad experience without her. We got along so well. Our sense of humors just fed off each other but we could also be deep.
“Niña!!!” is what my host mom said whenever she needed to call us to lunch or dinner. The one time Abby mocked her and everyone had a good laugh.
Maria and Geronimo were both such good cooks. They even had their own deep fryer and made croquettas fresh for lunch. Lunch is the biggest meal in Spain. It typically happens at 3:00 or 4:00. Dinner is not a big deal and Spaniards typically eat leftovers at 9:00 or 10:00. As for breakfast, it is typically just coffee and toast. Our host parents were aware of the cultural differences and made the transition easier. Geronimo gave us more to eat for breakfast in the morning. Dinner would be earlier at 8:00 so we wouldn’t get too hungry.
The food they prepared for us was so fresh and tasty. The one time Abby and I nearly cried tears of the joy because our host mom made us paella. Maria knew that we loved it so much that she made it for our last meal.
In general, Maria was the sassiest, slapping our booties and telling us that all boys are just trouble. She told us that the only boys we should be talking to are Spanish ones, but only to improve our Spanish. Maria and Geronimo were always giving us helpful advice on how to live our best lives in Spain.
Having a host family is knowing you have a support system after you leave the country you are studying abroad in. Maria and Geronimo told us that if we are ever in Granada again, we had to stay with them. Living with a host family when studying abroad was one of the best decisions I made.