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By Savanna Steck, Illinois Wesleyan University

Don’t knock it till ya try it, everyone, staying in a homestay while abroad was one of the coolest things for me. But this living situation might not be for everyone. So here’s a little analysis of all the good and bad of living abroad.

Pros of Living in a Home Stay

-You get to experience the culture at a much closer level. Living with some opens you up to a whole host of new experiences. For me, I get to practice speaking Spanish with my host mom and she explains all about the Catalan culture.

-Along those lines, you also get fed. And not microwave noodles. Like real, home-cooked food. I’ve tried so many new dishes while staying with my host mom and they’re always delicious. So that’s definitely a plus. And the best part is I don’t have to cook it or worry about groceries.

-There’s someone to help you navigate the city. In my program, we kinda just got thrown into navigating the city on our first day. Luckily my host mom went with us to the school and showed us the way. Plus she knows the city so she always has good advice on what to do on the weekend, etc.

-There’s always someone to look after you when ya need it. From helping you get a stain out of your clothes by reminding you to fill out the weekend travel form, your host mom is always there to help ya out.

-And best of all, there’s always someone to come home to. Our host mom is always excited to see us and hear all about our day. So after a hard day of classes or a long weekend, it’s nice to come home to someone smiling and possibly with dinner.

Cons of Living in a Home Stay

-You are in someone’s home so there’s probably a couple of rules you need to follow. At least for me, these weren’t anything too bad. Just don’t eat in your room and put your dishes in the kitchen when you’re done. So I guess it depends on your style but I didn’t find this to be a deal breaker.

-Sometimes you may not have a clue what’s going on. Especially if you’re staying somewhere that you don’t speak the language, communication can be a little tricky. I was lucky that our host mom speaks a little English and I can speak a little Spanish. But I know some friends who don’t speak any Spanish and their host family doesn’t speak any English so its all a game of charades. But on the upside, they’re learning a ton every day.

-You have to be flexible and open-minded when living with someone. You’re in someones home, so you’re subject to their daily routine and culture. Sometimes that’s a little weird to experience up close. Maybe they eat really late or they clean their clothes a certain way. Just take it as a learning experience and it’ll be okay.

-You have to plan out your nighttime activities a bit more. Like every self-respecting college student, I like a good drink and a good night out. But when in a homestay you have to remember that you’re not on a college campus anymore. Loudly stumbling in at 3 am probably isn’t the best idea. So set a reminder on your phone to be quiet when you get home and that’s all it really takes.

-Depending on your program and your host family you might not have all the freedom you had in college. At least in my program, we aren’t allowed to have overnight guests at our homestays, and as a courtesy, we’re supposed to ask out host family before we invite anyone over. It’s a little different than having free reign at college but not bad. And not all programs are the same. I’m staying with my friend’s host family when I visit her. So look into it if its a concern.

I can’t make the decision for ya, but consider looking at a host family if you’re planning on studying abroad. So far I’ve had a wonderful experience, but remember, study abroad is all about you. So do some research and pick what’s gonna make you happy.

Savanna Steck

Savannah is a Political Science major from Guilford College, and studied abroad at SIS during Fall 2019.

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