One of the toughest matters I had to accept as a study abroad student was acknowledging my inability to see my family for weeks at a time while studying in Granada, Spain. Fortunately, the beauty of staying in a homestay is being able to feel cared for and encouraged during the study abroad experience. In addition, I was able to gain a greater understanding of the Granadan and Spaniard lifestyle that I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate if it weren’t for my ability to engage and live with a host family. I truly enjoyed my experience with my host family, and it was only through this opportunity that permitted me to fully value my time abroad.
First, I think it is crucial to get in contact with your host family prior to meeting them because it allows you to familiarize yourself with the family in order to have a better idea of what they are like, as well as practice their language in a low-stakes situation. Once I reached out to my host family, I immediately felt reassured that they were there to assist and motivate me through my time abroad by their kind words and conversations we had over the phone. I could tell they wanted me to succeed and benefit from our time together before they even met me! The ability to get acquainted before meeting in person creates a less overwhelming atmosphere for both you and your host family when you see each other for the first time. That way, you can skip introductions and jump immediately into their routine once you are with them!
Second, once I was in Granada, the majority of my time with my host family was spent practicing Spanish and incorporating me in their daily activities. It was through our dialogue during their ordinary routines that I discovered a plethora of Spanish idioms and phrases that I would not have obtained as easily in a classroom setting or from living by myself abroad. The more interaction we had, the more motivated I was to immerse myself in the language because of my curiosity and development in my self-confidence that peaked from their assistance. Not only did my homestay experience facilitate my learning in Spanish oral skills and lifestyle, but I had the opportunity to help them with English and teach them aspects of my culture.
Looking back at my experience, one of the most rewarding aspects of staying with a host family is being able to see how much you have affected their lives in addition to yours. As a result, I recommend staying in in touch with your host family, because it will encourage you all to continue playing active roles in each other’s lives.
Darien Perry is the Summer 2019 Alumni Ambassador in Granada, Spain, and is currently studying at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.