When people ask me where I’m from, they’re usually asking what place I call home. Ever since I studied abroad in Madrid, this question becomes a little more complicated. While I am proud to say that I am from Kansas, as this is where my family still resides today, there is a part of my heart that will forever consider the beautiful apartment overlooking Calle Arenal in Madrid, Spain my second home. The reason I say this isn’t because of the wonderful location of my residence abroad, nor was it the magic of living in the middle of Madrid, but rather, what made this place my home away from home was my wonderful host family.
All the Comforts of Home
Sure, the idea of living with complete strangers in a foreign country is a little bit daunting. Speaking from experience, however, I can assure you that living with a host family was one of the best aspects of studying abroad. My host family consisted of a host dad, a host mom, a grandmother and a housekeeper. They were all more than welcoming, and really enjoyed having us around. I lived with six other girls in our apartment. That sounds like a lot of people for one apartment, but the accommodations were very spacious. We lived two to a room, but the rooms were so large that we easily could have fit three beds into a couple of them. My particular family had hosted up to nine girls in previous semesters, so we were very comfortable.
For the Madrid program, the host family provides two meals a day (breakfast and dinner), bedding and linens. Our host mom did our laundry and cleaned our rooms weekly and moreover provided us with a warm and homey environment. Talk about being pampered! Living with a host family put living in a dorm to shame.
Authentic Food and Fun
Living with a host family really forced me to immerse myself in the Spanish culture. Not only was living in an authentic Spanish residence a great way for me to practice and improve my Spanish, but I learned more about Spanish customs and traditions through my own personal experiences in my Spanish home.
The food was outstanding. My host mother made a different dish almost every night. I tried paella, tortilla de Espana, all different kinds of fish and some delicious Spanish desserts. My host parents really made an effort to share their lives with us. Dinner was the time during the day when we all came together and sat as a family to eat, talk and just enjoy each other’s company. Dinners were always so entertaining and fun. Some nights, dinner would take up to an hour and a half just because we had so much fun talking and laughing with our host parents. They were always around to answer any questions we had. They helped us figure out how to buy our metro passes, told us about neat places to travel to and encouraged us to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and get lost in the magic of Madrid.
Relationships That Last a Lifetime
I knew about a week after living in Spain that my relationship with my host family would continue past just my semester there. I still keep in contact with them via email and Facebook. The day I left Spain, I left a piece of my heart in Madrid. Living with a host family truly was a highlight of my semester abroad. My experiences only lasted a semester, but the memories I have I will cherish my entire life.