By Lauren Haynes, Colorado State University

When I first decided to study abroad, I knew I wanted to live with a family. I was working toward my Spanish minor after all, and I knew I was going to have to completely immerse myself in the culture if I was going to leave Spain with improved language skills. When I first arrived in Barcelona and met my hosts, a friendly older couple living in a nice three bedroom apartment, my language skills were immediately put to the test. They spoke no English, but introductions and house rules were eventually understood and I settled in.

Over the next four weeks, these two people who were strangers at first became family. Most people in a new and different environment experience feelings of sadness and longing, also known as homesickness. Not me. Nearly every day, my host mother, Montse would wake up early to set out breakfast, and then have her morning coffee and ask me about my plans for the day. Every night, she and Antonio would cook together and we would all sit down and enjoy a nice dinner; multitasking between talking about our days and watching fúbol (it was the world cup that summer!) Antonio even took me on a tour of the city showing me the FC Barcelona Stadium and Olympic stadium, and the castle at Montjuic!

After hearing a little about my experience, it’s pretty clear why I always encourage students to choose to live in a homestay. There really is no better way to become more comfortable with the language, learn about the culture, and experience what “real life” is like in Barcelona.

To those of you thinking about going abroad in the future, the opportunity to build relationships across the world is right in front of you. I still keep in touch with Montse and Antonio today, and have already made plans to come over for dinner when I return to Barcelona this summer!