CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Spring 2012
Home School: University of Colorado, Boulder
“Take risks. If you win, you will be happier. If you lose, you will be wiser.”
People go abroad to “study” of course, but some of the more prominent questions that pop into all of our heads are: Where am I going to travel while I’m abroad? How am I going to meet friends? Where will I go out at night? Where can I find the best food? And of course, where am I going to live?!
Deciding between the homestay and residencia option was a challenge for me. I was torn because I wanted to have the freedom to do whatever I wanted, but I also wanted to immerse myself more into the culture of Barcelona. After about a month of debating back and forth between which option I wanted to do, I decided to live with a host family. The night before I met my host family, I was so nervous that I think I got about 30 minutes of sleep, if that. Then the moment came at 5 PM the following day when my host mother, Rosa, came to pick me up and take me to my new home. My first impression of her was that she was one of the nicest, most genuine women I have ever met. Our first bonding moment was lugging my two enormous suitcases up two flights of narrow stone stairs up into her apartment. She kept saying expressions in Spanish, and I in English, until we got to the top of the stairs, completely out of breath, laughing hysterically.
What I like the most about living in the homestay is that I feel like I have a home away from home. Rosa, her fifteen-year-old daughter Carla, and I eat dinner together every night and then spend an hour or so afterward just talking, watching the news, laughing, and telling stories. I have met other members of their family as well as their friends. Everyone is so welcoming and excited to meet me.
My Spanish has also greatly improved since I first came to Barcelona at the end of December. Carla and Rosa correct my grammatical mistakes, edit my Spanish papers, and teach me fun phrases. My favorite moments I share with them are when we try to tell each other stories and the language barrier gets in the way. One example is last week when I asked my host mother to correct my composition for Spanish class. I asked her: “Puedes corregir mi composición?” She thought that I meant my composition, as in my outfit and went on to tell me I looked fine and that she liked my red pants. I tilted my head and looked at her very confused, wondering how my red pants related to my Spanish homework. After we both stood confused for about 30 seconds, we burst out laughing and figured out what each other meant.
I was worried before that being in the homestay meant that I wouldn’t be able to go out and meet people and that I would feel isolated away from everyone. It is actually the exact opposite. I have also made some very important friends that I know I will keep in contact with when I return to the states. I have made friends with people in my classes, other students in CIEE, and even Spanish natives that we met through our intercambios. Last night, I went to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant with two Spanish girls and two of my friends in CIEE. Not only was the food delicious and I was so full that I couldn’t move after, but I got to think of how nice it was to be here experiencing life with the local Spanish students my age. I have made friends here that I eat lunch with, travel with, hang out on the weekends, go out and have drinks with and also just sit around and do absolutely nothing with-just like as if I were home in the States!
Adjusting to change can be a difficult process, and often it is our first instinct to follow what is more comfortable. It was a challenge for me to reach outside of my comfort bubble and try new things, and I couldn’t be happier that I made that choice.
For more stories about living with a home stay, click here.