Attending a study abroad program can be an overwhelming process for many people, there is a lot of information that must be researched even before the plane ticket is bought. One of the specifics that must be determined before arriving for your program is housing preferences. For most people, a homestay is the ultimate key to a complete immersion program.
But, what exactly does a homestay entail? Why is a homestay the best housing option abroad? To answer these questions, we wanted to share a little bit about what makes a homestay experience so valuable to you as a Spanish language learner through an interview between an Expanish student and her host mom.
We’ll be discussing all aspects of a homestay through the experience of our Spanish language learner, Erin. Erin is an 18-year-old student from England, and has been studying at Expanish in Buenos Aires for the last 3 months. After she completes her current Spanish program, Erin plans on traveling through Latin America and putting her new found Spanish skills to the test. She describes her personal Spanish learning journey in Buenos Aires as a mix of ups and downs, challenges, and positive experiences with the language, culture, and most importantly her homestay experience.
What does a homestay mean?
Many students have the same question when it comes to the homestays: what does it mean to live in a homestay in Buenos Aires? When placed with a host family, you will be provided with a private or shared room and bathroom, depending on your homestay selection. For Erin, this meant a private room, which she explained was larger than her room back home.
Most host families, including Erin’s, consist of an older woman, usually a mother or grandmother, or an older couple looking to fill their empty rooms and dinner tables. Erin’s host mother Mariana was born and raised in Buenos Aires and has been hosting students for more than 10 years.
Mariana first started accepting students when her youngest son was still living at home, and this allowed them a bonding experience unlike any other.
“We made sure the girls were safe and happy. He[my son] used to go pick them up at the dance club at 5 in the morning…he was like a brother to them, and he helped me watch after them.”
But don’t fret! A host mother like Mariana knows that she is an ambassador to her city, an entrance to a different culture, and not your actual mother.
“They aren’t visitors, but neither are they my nieces…I don’t get in their lives in the same way I get in the lives of my nieces…They always treat me with respect and love.”
Erin explains that her host mother has created the most respectful Spanish learning environment for her and the other students, allowing them to feel at-home and comfortable practicing their Spanish and bonding in a way not provided by other living situations.
“We all eat dinner together, and just sit and talk at the table.”
For Erin, and many Expanish students, choosing the homestay option for Spanish learning in Buenos Aires provides them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become part of another person’s family and fully integrate themselves in the Spanish language.
Why Choose a Homestay
For many study abroad students, there are three options for housing: homestay, student residence, or student shared apartment. A student residence or shared apartment are great options for those who want to take advantage of living with students who are in their same language learning program. However, those students who seek complete immersion in a language and culture should choose a homestay. The personal reasons for selecting a homestay are many but as our Expanish student, Erin, explained:
“I liked the idea of a homestay because it was great if someone could tell you about the city, [someone who] knows about that place because they have lived there most of their life.”
Most Expanish students choose a homestay to completely immerse themselves in the language and culture, in order to not only gain a better understanding of the city and its people, but the Spanish language and other regional nuances, such as colloquialisms and gestures. Regardless of the length of their stay, almost all Spanish language learners in Buenos Aires have reported positive homestay experiences and have said that they plan to keep in touch and return to visit their host families in the future.
When all is said and done, studying Spanish abroad is a monumental, life changing experience that forms our future and the way we see the world. Choosing a homestay allows you the opportunity to immerse yourself fully in the Spanish language and the Argentine culture. It also gives you a home away from home, as the connections formed with your host family and other fellow students will show you that home isn’t necessarily a place on the map, but rather in the homes and hearts of the people we love and respect.