Homestay Immersion in Spain.
Oh my gosh, Spain was so much fun! I have already been taking Spanish for 11 years, so it was very easy communicating and understanding things while I was in Spain. There were only a few words I had to get used to such as “Vale”, which means “alright”, and “Vosotros”, which translates to “you all”. That being said, for everyone who is new to the Spanish language, this trip will definitely make you 100 times better in el Español.
When I got to Madrid, I was very tired from the very long plane ride, as well as a little nervous to meet my new host family, whom I would be staying with for three weeks. However, when I finally met my family, they were so nice and accepting of the fact that I wanted to get some sleep.
A typical Spanish day starts with a very delicious (but small) breakfast. Then, we would usually visit a part of Madrid, and have lunch at around 3 or 4 pm. Our apartment was only about 5 minutes from the center of Madrid, so my two host brothers and I traveled there by metro a few times. My host family also liked taking me to the small towns by Madrid such as Segovia or Chinchón (very cool towns, with lots of history). We usually ate dinner at around 10 or 11 pm, then chilled out and talked until we went to bed at around midnight or 1am.
A big part of the Spanish culture is being a part of your community. Since everyone lives in apartments, it's pretty much a given to be kind to one another, which the Spaniards are indeed. Everyone knows everyone else from the building, and greets them no matter the time of day. When I went down to the pool in the middle of our apartment building, everyone was very kind to me, knowing that I was from the America.
If you are wondering about the food, the Spanish cuisine is very delicious. Ham (Jamón) is very popular there, as well as many other Spanish meats that you can't find here in the US. However, if you're vegetarian like my friend who went to Spain with me, she said her host family was very accepting, even if eating meat is a big part of Spanish culture. Fruit is also very popular in Spain, and is very good! It's typical to have it at breakfast and for dessert.
Besides Madrid, the group got to go to Iceland for two days before we came back to Portland. In my opinion, after three weeks of being in Madrid, going up to Iceland was completely different. The landscape there is so incredible, and there is lots of fascinating things you will probably only see once in a lifetime.
Again, I had a very AMAZING time on this trip. I made so many new friends both with the Spaniards and the other kids in the group! I would recommend for everyone to try it out!
Falling in Love with the Spanish Lifestyle
Every day since coming home, I think back on my time in Spain and I am filled with happiness. This incredible experience has encouraged me to grow and helped me understand myself better in so many ways. I had such an amazing time during my exchange and I now have an urge to return to this beautiful country in the future.
After traveling for almost 24 hours, my host family and I jumped into our joint lives together. For the first few days, I did not allow myself to feel tired or jet lagged and I got caught up in this exciting new lifestyle. My favorite part of the whole trip was the excitement and intrigue I found in the subtle lifestyle differences that I experienced in that first week. Every morning, my host sister, Ana, and I would wake up late and eat a breakfast of toast drizzled with olive oil and a mug of nesquik chocolate milk. The weather would still be cooler at this time and I would usually take my breakfast out onto their apartment terrace with a book. Daytime passed slowly with Ana and I often going to the pool in the extreme Madrid heat then returning to the apartment for lunch at around 2. Together we would prepare lunch then eat on the couches while watching a movie. Sometimes if one of us was very tired that day we would go back to our rooms and take a “siesta” or nap. The only time the heat was bearable was during early evening or nighttime. We often took the train into the center of Madrid around this time and met up with some of Ana’s friends or went shopping on the Gran Via. When we returned home, dinner was served at around 10 or 11 and always a much smaller meal than lunch.
During my stay, I tried so many new and interesting foods. One night, late into my homestay experience, we had percebes for dinner. Percebes are a type of barnacle that is very expensive in Spain. Percebes look like small dinosaur claws and the skin has a reptilian feel. When they are cracked open, sea water is released and then the meaty part must be sucked out. They tasted delicious. But even with such a delicious taste, I could only bring myself to eat four of the small claw-like creatures because of their extremely strange appearance. I hope to return to Madrid someday with my family and have them try percebes as well.
My homestay was a life changing experience. I am so grateful for such a wonderful host family and I hope to visit them again in the future. The city of Madrid will always hold a special place in my heart as well as the cultural differences that I experienced in Spain. Not only did I meet wonderful new people and try so many exciting new things but I was also inspired to understand the Spanish language in its entirety. I look forward to continuing my Spanish studies and developing the characteristics and qualities of myself that I noticed while traveling Spain.