Living with a host family can be one of the most daunting aspects of study abroad. Last semester in Australia, I had a short stay with a host family and, unfortunately, had a bad experience with them. After spending the fall semester abroad, coming back home to my family, only to leave again for another semester was hard. In the days leading up to my arrival in Spain, I was nervous and worried about living with a host family and that I wouldn’t ever “feel at home.” As I arrived in Madrid and lugged my suitcases upstairs, I was met by a boisterous dog, Boina, and a lovely couple, Cristina and Jorge. We’re almost halfway through the semester and I am lucky to say that I am having a wonderful experience with my Spanish family.
It took me a while to feel comfortable and “at home.” I kept comparing my Spanish family to my family and soon realized that being “at home” here in Spain has, of course, to mean something different than what it does being actually at home. As soon as I started looking at it like that, I felt myself relaxing into my new family and environment. Just like at home, I do my homework at the dining room table sometimes, we have dinner as a family, and then watch TV shows after dinner. But, dinners are much later than I am used to and the food is a little different. As a foodie, it’s been amazing trying out different foods! And, although I am far away from home, my Spanish family has quickly become my second family.
Living with Cristina and Jorge (and Boina!) has given me a look into a typical Spanish family life. From day 1, they integrated me into their family as if I were one of their children. I often join them on their walks in the park with Boina and watching TV. We share stories with each other about our lives and interests. Last weekend, Cristina invited me to spend the day with her and her friends in Torrelodones. Her friends also had dogs and since Jorge was playing soccer in the morning, I was the one throwing a stick for Boina. After walking on this beautiful trail that had a view of Madrid, we went to the town center and enjoyed some aperitivos. I spent all afternoon listening to and participating in the conversation between Cristina, Jorge (who joined us), and their friends. It was refreshing to get out of the city and enjoy the fresh air of “el campo.” I was introduced to their friends and felt it only fair to introduce them to some of mine. Yesterday, I had a few friends over for a small birthday dinner and Cristina and Jorge absolutely enjoyed meeting my friends. This exchange of culture, interests, ideas, etc, is something I definitely would not have gotten if I were to have lived in a residence. Living with a host family has enriched my study abroad experience in so many ways and I can’t wait to have more with them!
Giovanna Sabini-Leite, student blogger primavera 2020