When I was first applying to study abroad I was not planning on being in a homestay. I really wanted to be in an apartment, but Pitt and ISA’s application timelines don’t work well together, which made it impossible to be in an apartment. I was super nervous to be living with a random family in another country, but time was flying by and I needed to fill out my homestay application.
For a homestay, you are placed in a neighborhood within the main part of the city, almost always given a roommate, your host mom cooks every meal for you, and she does your laundry once a week. When applying through ISA, there were many different preference sections. You can say if you are ok with children or animals in the house, whether you follow a specific diet, allergies, etc. It was basically the same as applying for a random roommate at Pitt plus food questions There were exactly 2 things I requested: I wanted a roommate and my host mom needed to know some English. That being said, my roommates great, but my host mom doesn’t know a single English word.
Communication is still something I’m struggling greatly with. I can understand my host mom pretty often, I just have trouble responding because I don’t have the words. However my roommates Spanish is much better than mine and she can usually help me. In addition to my host mom and roommate, we live with my host moms son and daughter who are in there late 20s and early 30s. This is super common for kids to live with their parents well into their 30s. We pretty much never see her son, but occasionally her daughter will eat with us. Neither of us can really communicate with her because her Sevilla accent is so strong and she speaks too fast for us.
Aside from the communication and family dynamics, there are many things about living in a homestay that I wish I knew prior. My roommate and I got lucky that we have our own bathroom separate from the rest of the family but usually this is not the norm. In Seville water, heat, and electricity are super expensive and they don’t like to waste anything. Showers are only about 10 minutes, the house is freezing all the time, if you’re not in a room you are expected to turn the lights or TV off, and almost no one owns a clothes dryer. It is also very common for a host mom to show you how to close the doors because they shut them very carefully and never slam them like Americans do. Something else to keep in mind is that when they greet each other they always double kiss on the cheeks. Next, I definitely recommend buying or bringing slippers because they expect you to wear them all the time in the house. If you don’t have any they will call you out on it, but definitely never walk around barefoot. Finally, most people bring their host family gifts, just something from home representing where you come from.
Overall I am happy that I ended up in a homestay, mostly because I don’t have to spend money on meals and I get to try a lot of different foods. It also turns out that the people who did get the apartments have a super long commute to school everyday. For school I am attending Universidad de Pablo Olavide (UPO). Everyone has to take the metro everyday to get there because it is in the middle of no where on the edge of Seville. I’m taking 4 classes all taught in english (International Marketing, Entrepreneurship and New Ventures, Spanish Culture, and Christianity Islam and Judaism in the Spanish Context.) Luckily for me I just have two 1 hour and 20 minute classes back to back everyday so I pretty much just show up and go back home for lunch and have the rest of the day to myself. They also have a really inexpensive cafeteria which is nice. However, you have to pay 40 euros to use the gym for the semester and I’ve heard it is pretty gross.
I personally would recommend a homestay to anyone who wants save money, wants to learn the language, or is going into a study abroad program without knowing anyone. In my next blog I’ll talk about my first month so far in Spain!