When I undertook a year abroad as part of my undergraduate degree, arranging accommodation was the part I was the most apprehensive about. My friend and I settled on staying with a Spanish family so we could have a better introduction to where we were living, a better understanding of Spanish culture, and a better chance at using our Spanish language skills. All of these ended up being true. Our host family were the most accommodating people I have ever met – being kind enough to cater for my friend’s gluten free vegetarian diet, picking us up from the airport, taking us out for meals, and introducing us to their extended family. They told us so much about the university that we didn’t know, and were clearly experienced in catering for students living with them.
I lived with them for my entire time abroad and went on several trips away with them as they were kind enough to take us to Segovia and Burgos to allow us to see more of the country whilst we were there. They were always there to help with any language queries we had, and were eager to learn as much English from us as they could, as well as learning all about English culture as well.
My experience in Spain was made better by the fact that I was living with them, and they became a second family to me. I’ve maintained contact with them and plan to visit them again once I’m able to go to Spain again. I’ll forever be grateful for the experiences they gave me, and the open arms they extended my way, and their ability to open my shell.
Communicate with your hosts before your visit
Establish contact with any families you might be staying with before you go. If you can, visit before actually moving as it will help you feel far more comfortable when you finally got there. Your initial communication with your family will help you settle in and feel less nervous.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – your host family will become like a home away from home. These are the people that will be the easiest to ask anything whilst you’re there, from transport links, to the best places to visit, to random language doubts. The best people to ask are those that have done it all before.
Find out about your hosts
Make the most of the experience – living with a host family is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. Ask about their lives, their experiences, their political and historical views. Some of the things you might learn may surprise you!
Stay in touch – when your time abroad is over, you’ll want to stay in touch so you have somewhere to go and visit in the future, connections in a foreign country, and a great excuse to keep up your language progress.