The Value of having a host family:
I had a very positive experience with my host family. I originally wanted to have an apartment with other kids in my program, but changed my mind at the last minute. My study abroad program (ISA) did a great job of paring me with another student who I got along great with, despite not knowing each other at all. ISA also did a great job of pairing you with a host family with similar language abilities as you. For example, if you speak great Spanish, your host family may not speak much English, and it would not be a huge barrier. Alternatively, if you only speak English, your host family would most likely be close to fluent in English. The students in the same household are usually partially selected on the same basis; my roommate Sam and I had a similar speaking ability as one another. We were both intermediate Spanish speakers, so we had somewhat of a tandem effort to communicate with our host mom most days.
A very nice advantage to living in a homestay is the family meal time every night. Our host mom would cook for Sam and I every night (except for days we were traveling). She was an incredible cook, every night would be a new dish that seemed to get better and better each and every time we sat down to eat. The best part of the home cooked meals was that this part of the home stay was included in the program cost, so we paid the same price for the entire program as others in apartments but our living arrangement came with two meals per day. This is a huge reason I chose to live in a home stay, it allowed me to spend money on extra travel and other experiences. Also, if you do not know how to cook or you are interested in trying new authentic Spanish dishes, this is definitely the route for you. Another cool thing our host mom did was a group dinner with other kids in our program. She was friends with another woman who was a host mom for our same program, so we all got together and had a dinner party one night.
Our host mom did our laundry on a weekly basis, which was very nice since I did not bring many clothes, and since it was summer, my clothes were always sweaty and smelly. This is so convenient when you are always on the go, or traveling a few days a week. Not having to do any chores really opens up your day and lets you spend it how you want.
Being on your own is always nice, but having someone to give you advice and be concerned with your well-being is very nice, especially in a foreign country. Our host mom was very caring and made sure we were doing well at all times. Most host parents take their job seriously, and want to do well in order to keep it. Our host mom really took pride in being our “mom” for the summer and went to great lengths to make sure we had everything we needed to do well in school, in travel, and in the new community. She even dragged me out of bed to get to school most mornings!
All in all, I would recommend living with a host family to everyone.