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By Tania Silva, Illinois Wesleyan University

On January 8th, I finally arrived at El Prat Airport and although I was exhausted from my two flights (and a seven-hour layover), I could not wait to get to my homestay. I felt like a five-year-old kid looking out of the taxi window and being in awe of the beautiful city I was about to spend the next four months of my life in. I arrived at my homestay and my host mom greeted my roommate and I with a kiss on the cheek and took us into her apartment. She showed me my room and that’s when it hit me that I was completely out of my comfort zone.

It was such a smaller room than I was used to and the walls were bare pink with only a pirate hat and a couple of small art paintings on the wall. She then called us for dinner and I couldn’t wait to try this good smelling soup she had made for us. The instant the spoon touched my tongue, I knew I didn’t like it. I later found out that it was Zucchini soup (I hate zucchini). As I laid in my bed, I thought to myself that I had made the worst decision of my life by coming to Spain and as dramatic as I seemed at the time, I was just overwhelmed by everything hitting me at once.

As the weeks have gone by, my host mom has now learned that I don’t like zucchini and I have actually fallen in love with the little apartment I get to call home. I’m glad that I picked a homestay because I am able to experience Spain’s authentic food through my host mom’s fabulous cooking (I think she makes the best paella) and have a family I can come home to at the end of the day. Picking a homestay has allowed me to learn about the history of Barcelona and Spain without being in the classroom. She has taught me about the dictatorship, traditions, culture, and even how to cook, all things that I would have never experienced if I picked an apartment.

I love having a second mom here that can help me miss home a little less. It’s nice coming home from clinical observations and seeing how excited she gets to see me in my scrubs, or coming back from a weekend trip and seeing her reaction to all of the pictures I took. Last week, I brought up the fact that I wanted to cut my hair and if she had any suggestions for me. She quickly pulled out Google Maps and showed me where she gets her hair done and other nearby hair salons that she would recommend. The following day, she asked me what day worked best for me and booked us an appointment, it was our little “girl’s trip”. Her willingness to make me feel comfortable and explore more of Barcelona has made the city that much more meaningful to me. I am glad I picked to live in a homestay instead of an apartment during my study abroad experience and am excited to have many more adventures with my host mom.