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By Francheska Riley, University of Wyoming

When I made the decision to study abroad, I knew two things for certain: I wanted to study in Spain, and I wanted to live with a host family. Looking back now, I know that both were among the best choices I have ever made. Many students find the idea of living with a host family to be intimidating and think that it’s easier to spend their semester abroad in an apartment, in their comfort zone, with other American students. However, I can assure you, there is no greater experience than having your very own “Spain family” to come home to. I wouldn’t trade mine for anything.

The main reason I chose to live with a host family was to have the opportunity to practice my Spanish every single day, with actual Spanish speakers. Not only was this aspect extremely beneficial for my language skills, by getting to practice what I’m learning and have someone help me to correct mistakes, but I was also able to learn a lot of things that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise, like the colloquial phrases and new vocabulary that came up in my nightly conversations with my host mom. I feel like my apartment was the place that my Spanish abilities skyrocketed.

I don’t know quite how I got so lucky, but I was truly blessed with the most amazing host family that I could’ve asked for. My host mom is an incredible woman. She always went out of her way to make sure I was fed, feeling good, and answered any sort of questions I had. Dinnertime was always my favorite. She is a phenomenal cook and I was always fed plenty of good, healthy meals. My favorite memory of my time in Barcelona happened with her. I had asked her to teach me how to make Tortilla Española, because hers is the best I’ve had. One night, we had our very own cooking lesson, and she said to me “in my house, we drink wine and listen to music while we cook” and I turned around to my sweet host mom holding two glasses of wine. We did a “cheers” and continued to cook my favorite meal while listening to music written by my host sister! It was one of the best moments of my whole life.

Not only was I given my own “Spanish Mom,” but also two siblings. My host brother was always helpful when I had questions about things around the apartment and was always patient with my broken Spanish. He really made me feel welcome and I enjoyed our chats. My host sister was an absolute inspiration to me. She is just a few years younger than me, and I feel like I shared a really special connection with her. I have never met someone so down to earth and so happy to just be herself. She is passionate, kind and always greeted me with a smile and a hug. Not to mention, she is so talented as a singer! When I arrived in Barcelona, she was just starting to record her own album; and by the time my semester was over, she had released it, performed her first concert, and is now starting a tour! (Her name is SUU, check her out!) I had so many unforgettable and special experiences just because of her. SUU’s concert was incredible! Her songs are so fun and I listened to them over and over so I could better understand what her passions are. My host mom called it my “soundtrack for the city”. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to have these amazing people be a part of my life and experience here.

If I could give advice to anyone studying abroad, it would be to live in a homestay, don’t miss out on this once in a lifetime experience. I feel like so much of my life in Barcelona was shaped because of my host family, and my apartment will always be my favorite place in the city. By far, this was the greatest aspect of my study abroad, and is something I will truly cherish forever. I have learned through my travels that the very best part of seeing the world is the people that you meet, and I am so grateful that these people were put into my life.