What they don’t tell you about living with a host family

Before studying abroad, I really struggled with my decision of whether or not to live with a host family. I had two other options—dorm style living or an apartment. I finally decided on a home stay, and it truly was the greatest experience of my trip.
The family I stayed with was incredible. They were an older couple named Maite and Antonio, and had the two sweetest granddaughters who visited frequently. The five weeks I spent with them this summer absolutely flew by. We had so much fun—so many inside stories, tons of laughs, and plenty of quality time spent together. It also didn’t hurt that my host mom was an incredible cook.
You always hear the stories about how wonderful homestays are and how much students enjoy them (granted, you do also hear some stories about not-so-great homestay experiences, but these are rare). It’s such a strange thing when you think about it, traveling across the world and deciding to stay with this family you’ve never met and who, likewise, has no idea who you are. Aside from that, they probably won’t even speak your native language, which was the case for me. It is such an interesting concept, but the most incredible experience nonetheless. Homestays always come highly recommended by advisors and other students. But here’s what they don’t tell you—how hard it will be to leave.
I was dreading the moment from the past week and it came all too quickly. I had to leave these two people who had truly become my adopted parents, as well as leave my “home away from home”. I had the heaviest heart thinking about it. I tried to soak up each moment I had with them, taking mental photographs of every conversation. And then suddenly, just as soon as I met them, I had to leave them. I woke up that final morning with a feeling of pure dread, something I have not felt a single time during this trip. I got into the cab fighting back sobs, and waved to my host mom who was standing on the fifth floor balcony of her complex that had been my home for the past five weeks.
The hardest part of leaving isn’t leaving the place. The hardest part is leaving the experiences behind, and the people who you have become so emotionally invested in, with the constant fear looming that you may never see them again.
To anyone debating on a homestay: do it. Spend every moment you can with them, talk to them, learn from them. Sit and watch TV with them before you go out. Make an emotional connection with them. And stay in touch with them after you leave. Yes, leaving was difficult because of how close I had become with them, but I wouldn’t change that for the world. I will leave this place knowing that my experience would not have been the same without them. Until next time, Maite and Antonio!