When applying for housing for my study abroad I was given three options: a homestay, the Residencia, or an apartment.
Being the most popular option, the homestay is the more traditional and probably the more recommended route. An international student is placed in a household with a native family. This experience gives the student the ability to learn first hand about the culture by fully immersing themselves into it. Homestays have a multitude of benefits, including a traditional sense of family, and all meals and laundry included.
Almost everyone I have talked to in my program adores their host family. They have fun, quirky stories about miscommunication and typically nothing but admiration for their host mom’s cooking. My friend Melanie’s abuela even taught her to knit, she then taught us how to knit…our friend group now knits, watches Spanish soap operas, and jokes that it counts as “cultural immersion.”
The second option for housing abroad is the Residencia, or as we call it “The Rez.” The Rez was described to us as a dorm-like housing complex where we would live with other students in our program. The benefits included the ability to cook our own meals, a sense of independence, and that we only had to abide by our program rules instead of another’s house rules. Oh, and the biggest draw had to be that the Rez is less than a minute walk from our classes.
The third option is living in an apartment with other students. Similar to the Rez, apartments offer you a sense of independence, but you are only living with one or two other students off campus.
In the beginning, I debated switching to a homestay. All the stories of other student’s “families” made me feel like I was left out, but two weeks into our program all doubts I had about my living situation were gone. I was living with 13 other incredible and diverse students from all around the U.S. Soon my need for a traditional family was shattered. I had 13 siblings whom all are completely different.
Our program directors made sure we weren’t missing out on the Spanish experience by teaching us to cook traditional Spanish dishes in our kitchen. During meals we would all sit around and help each other with our Spanish and other courses. The Rez was somewhat of an American oasis in a completely new environment. We experienced things as a group so this offered a support system.
During the semester we even celebrated Halloween and Christmas, we carved pumpkins, held our own “Secret Santa,” and went ice skating. Living in the Rez may not be for everyone, but I couldn’t imagine spending my year abroad living anywhere else.
The world awaits…discover it.