By Kenlee Morris, University of Michigan
Choosing to live in a homestay comes with some great opportunities, as well as some important responsibilities. These are 4 tips on how to make the most of your homestay:
1. Get to know the people in your homestay. This goes for both your host family and your other housemates. It’s great to learn about Barcelona and the rest of Spain in general, but nothing quite replaces hearing anecdotes from your host family. They’ll likely appreciate you valuing their point of view, and it may make the experience of traveling to another country less jarring. I particularly liked hearing about my host mom’s travels and her family. When it comes to your roommates, Barcelona SAE hosts students from all over! While learning about Spain and the locals, I was also learning about other countries and even other states in the US by talking to my roommates. Overall, communicating with the people in your homestay can bring you a lot closer, help you better understand what life is like other countries, and promote reflection on yourself and the country you live in.
2. Get to know the food they make for dinner. Sitting at the table and eating dinners with my roommates and the company of my host mom was a great experience. While I recognized some dishes at the table, I also learned a lot about what a typical dinner in Barcelona can look like. Seeing some familiar ingredients used in such different ways than I’m used to makes me feel closer to this region’s history, and it’s made me excited to start cooking again when I get home!
3. Try to communicate in your host family’s language. Despite my very limited knowledge of Castilian (or Spanish), this was one of my favorite parts of living in a homestay. As my host mother doesn’t really know English, and I don’t really know Castilian, practicing speaking and listening to Castilian helped me better understand the language and “human communication” in general. Making use of phrases and aspects of the language that I understand prompted a boost in using my skillset unconventionally, but creatively, and led to an inevitable growth in my vocabulary.
4. Be respectful of their home. It’s important to remember that as students studying/interning abroad, we are guests in someone else’s country, city, and home. Follow your host family’s rules to establish trust and mutual understanding, and while it’s okay to point out how things might be different back home, you shouldn’t disrespect your host family’s customs or origins. Altogether, be mindful of context, especially if discussing your host country’s history or politics.