This is a real-life, unrehearsed, unscripted, [awkward] tour of my homestay apartment. Enjoy.
Prospective study abroad students: a big question is what’s the best choice of living arrangement. Stay with a native family? Hunt down your own flat upon arrival?
Umbrella suggestion: it depends on what you want out of your abroad experience. For example, my choice of homestay (in which I was paired with Senora Pilar Gonzaléz Chao and my NYC roommate, Denisa) was motivated by my aspirations to be integrated into the culture.
However, after living with in a homestay for a few months I’ve detected some highs and lows I hadn’t considered before.
Here is a break down of experience of friends living in apartments, homestay families, and student residences in Madrid in the form of- you guessed it- a pros and cons list.
– “True cultural experience.”
– Gain little wisdom nuggets from a native you wouldn’t get anywhere else:
historical facts, recipes, best places to eat or get a haircut.
–> 68 year old Snra. Chao told me where the free museums are, how to roll croquetas, where every festival in Spain is, and that the reason she didn’t learn to drive until her 20’s was because she refused to take the homemaking course mandatory with getting a license under Franco. Our dinnertime talks were one of the most meaningful aspects of my homestay experience.
– Full board meal plan = No control over diet. If you’re a selective eater (dieting, vegan, picky), don’t get full board. Be prepared to eat as they people do. Madrileños: small breakfast, large lunch at 2-4 PM, tapas, dinner 10 PM.
– Language barrier (if you have one).
– No friends over. This came as a huge bummer to me because I prefer socializing by throwing pot lucks, having friends over for drinks or movies.
– Not recommended if you need your space.
– You have to eat within acertain time period
– You can’t be shy about specifying your wants. And prepare yourself for miscommunication. A health conscious peer of mine requested her senora add more vegetables to her carb/fried meals; croquetas and calamari became batter-fried cauliflower and peppers
– You can’t cook for yourself. Cooking is a hobby and creative outlet for me, so it was annoying to be forbidden from even frying an egg. Adding to the bother is when I’m scrutinized or fussed over when I’m just trying to spread jam on bread.
– Yes, you can still maintain a nocturnal social life; they know you are young, funky, and like to go out. You don’t have a curfew. BUT you do need to respect the family you are living with, such as being quiet as you can when you do
– If you’ve already spent college living in an off campus apartment, why not try pressing the borders of your comfort zone and do something different? (ie, homestay family?)
– tend to live with other exchange people/ may be from other countries, but they are rarely Spaniards
– you control your own meals: you control your own diet, you miss out on cultural food because you cook what you’re used to
– The ones I’ve heard of come with a dining hall and your meal plan is mandatory since you don’t have a kitchen. If you’re a picky eater (or vegan, vegetarian) you may not want someone else deciding what you’re going to eat everyday. The girl I know lives on French fries.
– It’s dorm life. With a roommate.
– Probably procure a gym membership with your residence
– May have to eat within a certain time period; not whenever
*Advice based only from me + a handful of other people, from 1 semester in Madrid, Spain. Take it with grains of salt.