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Tips & Advice for Living in a Homestay in Spain

November 18, 2020
by Sydney Schwaller
SVQ homestay photo Sydney Schwaller
As many of you get ready for your time abroad, one key element of preparation is deciding which option of housing you want to live in. The options you can choose from include living in a shared living space with many rooms and sharing a room with a roommate while having a version of a "host mom” or “host dad” who cook and clean for you during the day but leave for their own homes at night. Since I studied in Seville, this was called “Casa de Sevilla.” So, when you asked someone where they were staying, you knew they were living with many other students versus alone or with one other roommate. Another option is the full-on homestay, meaning you live with a host family, or host mom or host dad. For those living in a homestay, it can be an excellent way to immerse yourself in the Spanish culture and get a firsthand look at how Spanish families live. It is also a great way to practice your Spanish and many of the families don’t speak English! Lastly, you could also pick an apartment, which means you could live with other CEA students but you have to cook and clean on your own. This is a more independent option, if you enjoy having your own space and food!

I lived in a homestay with a wonderful woman named Susana. I lived with one other girl and we shared a room together in Susana’s apartment. For me, choosing the homestay was the best decision I ever made, because I became so close with Susana and really improved my Spanish. I also got to learn so much about Seville through Susana and got to experience the culture in a very immerse way. Staying in a homestay allowed for me to make connections with not only Susana but also her family and the locals in my neighborhood. Down below, I am going to give my own tips and advice about staying in a homestay to make the most out of your time abroad! 

1. Offer to help your host family with cooking, cleaning, and the dishes.

Most host families know the job they signed up for and are expected to do all the cleaning, cooking, and dishes, but it is always nice to offer help! My host mom was always so appreciative when we asked to help her but more often than not she turned us down. We did always set the table and clean the table after we were done eating, but the majority of the time, Susana took over the main tasks. Your host family might tell you what you can do to help around the house, but some will not.

2. Try to keep your room clean!

Although studying abroad is so much fun and lots of times you are out in the city with friends or traveling, try keeping your room clean for your host families. My host mom was always telling us how much she appreciated us keeping our rooms tidy! This allows you to spend more time with your host family so that they did not always have to clean your home.

3. Ask if they can teach your traditional recipes!

Although students are not allowed to cook for themselves, you are allowed to watch or help your host families cook! This is such a fun way to learn traditional Spanish recipes 
that you can bring home to your family and also bond with your host family. It is a fun activity for everyone and it shows your host family you are interested to learn more about their culture!

4. Spend time in the common spaces with your host family.

As an alumna of studying abroad myself, I know it is hard to always chat with your host family as you are oftentimes exploring the city yourself or out traveling, but when you are home, try to sit out in the living room with them. I loved sitting down and chatting with Susana before dinner, and I got to know a lot about her family and about her time growing up in Sevilla. We also watched a lot of Spanish TV shows, and it helped me even more with my Spanish!

5. Keep in touch after you return home!

By the end of your time at your homestay, I am sure you will form many bonds with your host family! Be sure to keep in touch after you get back home. Once I returned home, I checked in on Susana through “WhatsApp” and told her fun things I was doing back in the U.S. and she kept me updated with her life. It is a great way to still feel connected to your city and host family. You will have a second family for life! 
Staying in a homestay was one of the highlights of my time abroad. I learned so much about the Spanish culture through my homestay, as well as improved my speaking skills. If you have any doubts about living in a homestay, I hope I cleared some of them up! 

Sydney Schwaller is a CEA Alumni Ambassador who studied abroad in Seville, Spain, during the Spring 2020 semester. She is currently a student at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.
Sydney Schwaller is the Spring 2020 Alumni Ambassador in Seville, Spain, and is currently studying at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
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