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La Residencia: Mi Casa Extranjera

I vividly remember picking out my housing preferences when finishing up my CEA checklist items. It was one of the last items I (purposely) put off until the last minute because I was so conflicted on where I wanted to live while abroad.

On the one hand, there was a homestay option. I had done a homestay before in high school, spending three weeks with a lovely San Sebastian woman in her apartment. I have friends who have loved their homestays, and I had heard that CEA worked hard to ensure that their families were kind, helpful, and just an overall good fit for foreign students.

Then, there was the apartment option. A shared apartment with fellow students, with a kitchen at our disposal and no worrying about paying rent every month. Again, I heard that CEA picked out great apartments in great locations, and a friend who had studied in Prague raved about her apartment experience, especially the independence.

Finally, there was the residencia option. The residencia is a dorm-like building, with a mix of CEA students, other American students, and Spaniards, all who attend the Universidad de Granada. Here, there would be three meals a day (except Sundays), it's in an ideal location, a chance to practice Spanish with actual Spaniard students, as well as meeting fellow Americans abroad.

Clearly, each of these options have a plethora of perks to them, so it was no surprise I had a hard time deciding where in Granada I was going to live. I remember sitting in front of my laptop, staring at the housing form, watching the clock tick down to the submission deadline. I had gone back and forth for weeks, trying to decide which option was best for me (all are great, but I wanted the best).

Ultimately, I just clicked some buttons based on my gut feeling and pressed submit. It was done, and so I waited, anxiously, for a few weeks for my placement to come back: I was in the residencia, rooming with a fellow CEA student about a 10 minute walk from school. Leading up to move in, I was nervous. Had I chosen right? Would I regret not having a kitchen to cook in? Or not having a family to become close with? Would I become sick of the dorm experience? Would the staff at the residencia be able to understand me?

Questions swirled in my head up until I arrived at the residencia, suitcases in tow, and began my stay in this Spanish dorm. All fears subsided when I saw my room: spacious and bright, with a large dresser for all my clothes, a balcony with a  view to the street and a couple planters of succulents on the railing, a big desk for studying, and a small area with a microwave and fridge to store food. Soon after unpacking, I met my roommate Ellie, and over the next few days started meeting other CEA students in the building. The residencia clearly was—and still is—the perfect fit for me, and I would highly recommend it to anyone studying abroad.

 Room sweet room: our cozy (albeit lived in!) room

Now, that’s not to say that the other housing options are bad. Quite a few of my friends here are in host families and absolutely love it. They’re close with their families, get to practice Spanish all the time, many have their own rooms, and have even bonded with host siblings. At times, I regret not being in a homestay (when I just need a little motherly TLC, for example), but the residencia’s staff feels like family to me. One of the cooks, Antonio and I have bonded over our mutual sarcastic sense of humor and my love for one of his desserts: natia (a flan-like pudding. Delicious!). The other staff members are extremely kind, call everyone cariño, and proclaim every sweet gesture as, “preciosa!” Even though I’m not in a homestay, the residencia students and staff feel just like family.

As nervous as I was about living abroad, it’s been wonderful so far. Of course, it’s not as decorated or personalized as my room back home (I decided it would be not so smart to pack posters for temporary room décor), but it feels like home. I look forward to flopping in my cheetah-print bed after a long class, or standing on our balcony drinking tea and watching la gente pass by on the street below. I love coming home to the residencia, and can’t believe it will be my home for the next few months.

 Room with a view: looking down on the
street from my balcony on a sunny Granada day

Darby Hennessey is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in Granada, Spain. She is currently a junior at the University of Mississippi
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