JIYOUNG SIM- Being away from your family is an essential part of studying abroad and it can also be very challenging at times. But having a good relationship with your host family will make it much easier and also let you gain much more out of your experience abroad. In many cases around me, students say their experiences with host families have been one of their best experiences they have had so far in Spain.
Before leaving for Spain, students are asked to fill out a form asking about their preferences about host families. It asks several general questions on their preferences and students can also leave comments on other preferences they might have. In my case, for example, I wrote “I prefer a family without little kids.” The program tries to find the best match for the student based on their answers. I got assigned to a family with a mother and a Spanish girl doing homestay. She goes to a dance school in Madrid and since I am also interested in dance and we are at similar ages, we became good friends. She is very nice and helpful.
Once they get assigned to a family, students receive information about the family and their contact information. They can talk to their families through email before leaving for Spain. It is a good idea to bring a small gift for the family. I brought a traditional Korean fan and my Spanish mom said she will get a Spanish one for me as a gift later!
Relationships with the families can differ depending on the preferences and personalities of the students and the families but many students build a very friendly and close relationship with the family. In the case of my host mother, she still keeps in touch with a former student of our program from 4 years ago. She graduated from Skidmore and is now working in Madrid as an English teacher. She comes to our house to eat lunch together almost every Sunday. To my family, Sunday lunch is a special lunch when we all gather. My host mom also told me to invite a friend for a Sunday lunch and she made an empanada stuffed with bacon for us! My friend still compliments about the empanada we had that Sunday every time we meet. My host mom is a great cook.
My host mom’s sister also lives nearby and her family often come over to our place. Last weekend her family and our family went out together for lunch at a restaurant to celebrate my host mom’s birthday. The pictures in this post are from then. My host mom us very caring. She always wants to bring me to different places and wants to know what I like to eat or what I like to do. At the end of the day she always asks me about the day and we have a conversation about the day.
The best part about living with a Spanish family is that your Spanish can improve a lot. Trying to have as much conversation as you can with your family can both let you build up good relationship with them and improve your Spanish. In my case I try to have a conversation during dinner or sit for a while after dinner talking about my day and try to talk about everything that happened during the day. I feel so lucky to live with such a nice and caring host mother and she is making my life here so much better than how it would have been without her.