With one homestay and study abroad experience under his belt, Ben shares what his current (and second overall) homestay in Buenos Aires is really like. He goes through the pros and cons coupled with several tips that will helpful for you as you consider your accommodation experience abroad. Take it from Ben: you'll get a stronger connection and a real taste of the culture with your host family while making lifelong friends!
This summer 2019 in Buenos Aires marks my second homestay experience. My first homestay, which took place in Madrid in 2016, was an amazing experience during which I made lifelong friends and improved my Spanish much faster than I ever did in class. It's been 3 years and I am still in touch with them, and have plans to see them in the near future. In this post I will detail the pros and cons of a homestay experience, describe my current homestay, and give some helpful tips for students who are considering or will be starting a homestay.
As I’ve mentioned, I believe that homestays are the best form of accommodation while studying abroad. I find that homestays allow you to make a stronger connection to the culture abroad, and give you a real taste of what it’s like to live abroad versus being a tourist. Furthermore, you are given meals at the home, which gives you a chance to practice language skills with the family, eat traditional, home-cooked meals, and save money on food. In my first homestay, the family was incredibly inviting, and had a son my age—him and I are still close, and he is one of my best friends! In my current homestay, the family is equally inviting, and we are always comparing things between Argentina and the US; I learn so much from our conversations, and I get better at Spanish at the same time. The next pro is the people you meet: homestays often host more than one student at a time. My roommate in my first host family is one of my closest friends and an honorary family member (he lives less than an hour away from me). My roommate in my current homestay is from the UK, and she is awesome. I have learned so much about British slang, culture, and traditions, and it adds another layer of culture to our homestay dinners.
The house is filled with original artwork—there is a family history of artists!
I feel that not including the cons would be dishonest, so here are a few problems with homestays (I think the pros outweigh the cons and it’s not even close). Sharing a space with a family means you must be considerate. This is not to say that you cannot go out at night, but you must be mindful and quiet when you come back. Houses and apartments around the world are different, so you may have to share a bathroom with the family—this has never caused a problem in my experience, but be careful not to hog the bathroom, especially if the host family needs to go to work/school.
This is a picture of my room taken from the bed. The bed is better than mine at college, and the desk has a window that overlooks the street; not a bad view for when I’m working.
Many students are nervous that their host family will not be welcoming or nice, and that is a natural fear. I have found that families host students because they like the cultural comparisons and meeting people from around the world. If they didn’t like having students in the house, they simply wouldn’t host. Everyone in my CAPA Buenos Aires program, and my previous program loved their host families.
This is a collection of artifacts hanging in my room. It’s a really cool touch, and makes my room even more interesting!
My current host family consists of Fabiana and her daughter Renee. Our unit is rounded out by another student from Bristol in the UK. We live in a wonderful apartment close to Aguero in Buenos Aires, so getting around is really easy. Fabiana is super easy-going, and we are always learning about each other's cultures and countries. Renee is extremely outgoing, really funny, and has a very bright personality. And while she is 7, Bee (the other student) and I, are constantly learning Spanish from her. Overall, I have really enjoyed this homestay, and am excited for the rest of the program to continue learning from them and making meaningful and deep connections.
This is the host family’s cat, Gris. She’s 10, but she acts more like a dog than a cat—she loves attention and tries to lick me.
Here are a few more tips for students doing homestays:
1. Communicate with your host family. For example, if you can’t make it for dinner, they will understand, but be sure to let them know so they do not wait for you or make extra food.
2. Stay away from English (unless you are in an English-speaking destination). Take this chance to practice your language skills.
3. Be respectful of your host family’s time and space. Be quiet if you come back late, keep your space neat, and be quick in the bathroom.
4. Be friendly and start conversations. This is not a one-way street; you will need to do your part to get the most out of it.
5. Voice your concerns—if something is wrong, it will not fix itself. It may be uncomfortable to say something, but your host family will understand, and help you to make it right.
Ben Gunduz is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2019, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An International Businessmajor at Northeastern University, he is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
Ben's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.