Homestay! The wonderful, beautiful, confusing, frustrating, incredible experience of a homestay. If you don’t know exactly what this is, it’s okay; neither did I. It is when a student studying abroad lives with a family as opposed to an apartment or dorm. In Buenos Aires, this is a normal experience for students attending college. Most people do not move out from their parent’s homes until they are in their late twenties and are financially stable. They do this for many reason. Culturally speaking, Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) view college differently than Americans. Receiving a college education is considered a right and they treat it somewhat like high school in the sense that people do not ‘go away’ to college. They stay at home and live for free while they try to complete their education.
Homestays are an entirely individual experience and many factors will determine how much someone enjoys, or doesn’t enjoy, their homestay. Lucky for me, I absolutely love mine. I live in the Parisian looking neighborhood of Recoleta. My host parents are Annie and Federico, two grandparents in their 80’s. Annie is chatty, loving and dramatic while Fede is much quieter and very sweet. Every night we eat a homemade dinner around 9pm and talk about our days. These dinners allow me to practice my Spanish and learn the cultural norms of Buenos Aries. Sometimes they have friends over to eat with us and they often discuss politics. My limited vocabulary and lack of knowledge of local politics usually prevents me from joining the conversation, however, I listen to their opinions and begin to see the world from their point of view. They follow American politics and sometimes ask me questions like, “why do Americans hate health care?” and I do my best to answer them. Like higher education, healthcare is nationalized here as well.
I do not mean to say that homestays do not come with their own difficulties. The first few days were very disorienting and frustrating. I was quiet, unsure of what what I should and should not being doing, and terrified of offending them. I also had a hard time understanding their thick Porteño accent. Here every y/ll sounds like sshhh. Ayer is a-sssshhh-er. There was also a learning curve before figuring out their quirks and expectations. Annie often sounds angry but she never is; I say goodbye before I go out but there is no curfew; and if I don’t seem positive that I am full, more food will appear on my plate. The beginning was a learning process but after awhile, everything became clear.
All in all, my homestay is by far the most memorable part of my abroad experience. I am so fortune for my time here with Annie and Fede and for all of the love and care they show me. It is both a comforting and educational experience that has made my time here incredible. Every night after dinner, Annie wishes me a goodnight, kisses my cheek and tells me “hasta mañana mi amor”. See you in the morning my love.