I have loved having a homestay experience in Spain and would highly recommend it to anyone going abroad. I got an authentic cultural experience and even had my room and laundry cleaned for me. My host parents were very nice and accommodating, but there were a few things I wish I had known ahead of time.
- Quick Showers – You are going to have to take quick showers (10 minutes or less). If you are shaving your legs or something and know that it is going to be longer than ten minutes, it is respectful to turn off the water when you don’t need to rinse. You also shouldn’t take more than one shower a day. My madre never said anything to us about shower time, but I know a lot of other people’s host parents brought it up.
- Turn off lights – Electric, like water, is very expensive in Spain. Because of this, they use natural light and open blinds/windows whenever they can. It was hard at first for me to remember to turn lights off when leaving a room or open blinds instead of flipping the light switch, but eventually I got in the habit of it.
- Be ready to speak Spanish – Very few of the people I study with have host parents that speak English. I came over with the view that everyone speaks at least some English, but I have found this to not always be true. If you don’t know any Spanish, don’t panic. I had a limited Spanish background, but was able to communicate with gestures and translations apps just fine. I caught on to a lot of Spanish really quickly as well. Also, in regards to Spanish, some places, such as Sevilla, do not use the formal tense (usted).
- Space is tight – Unlike the United States, there is far less space in most cities in Spain. With this in mind, don’t be surprised if your shared bedroom is half the size of your freshman dorm room. In addition, be mindful of clutter. Everything in our host parent’s house had a purpose (if not 2 or 3 purposes) and was very tidy. There isn’t room for junk drawers or misplaced objects.
- Estoy lleno(a) – Spanish host-moms will try to push more and more food on you during meals and won’t stop until you stop them. The easiest way to do this is say, “Estoy lleno(a)” aka “I am full.”
I have been studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain for over two and a half months now, and I have absolutely loved every second of it. I thought I would compile a list of my favorite things to do for people that also want to study abroad here or just come visit for the weekend. Enjoy!
1. Plaza de Espana/Parque de Maria Luisa – Plaza de Espana is one of the most well-known spots in not only Sevilla, but all throughout Spain. This incredible building was built in 1928 for the World Fair and is surrounded by beautiful fountains, tile mosaics, and horse drawn carriages. In addition, it is located inside the Maria Luisa Park, which is Sevilla’s main green area. The park is huge and absolutely breathtaking. You can find exotic plants, birds, sunbathers, and even brides getting their pictures taken here.
2. Mercado Lonja del Barranco – My friends and I go to this market about once a week. They have a great assortment of local and international food as well as drinks. Best of all, it is located right on the river. This modern market is always full of life and has live music on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. There is also a really good churro stand about 20 feet away from it!
3. The Real Alcazar – The Alcazar is the royal palace in Sevilla. It is a bit deceptive because you can’t tell from the outside how gorgeous it is. Every room is filled with beautifully tiled walls and the garden is so pretty. You might even see a peacock roaming around. I recommend buying your ticket online in order to avoid the long line!
4. Cathedral – I am not a huge cathedral person, but Sevilla’s cathedral is truly beautiful. It is the largest gothic cathedral in the world and it hosts the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Unlike many of the cathedral’s I toured, I got to go through many meeting rooms that are still being used today and through a museum area with beautiful gold and silver artifacts. In addition, you can go up into the tower of the church where you get amazing 360 degree views of the city. As with the Alcazar, I recommend purchasing your ticket online in order to avoid long lines. Also, the cathedral and the Alcazar are located right next to each other so I recommend visiting them consecutively!
5. Las Setas – Las Setas is technically named Metropol Parasol, but everyone in Sevilla refers to it as “Las Setas.” It is a huge modern structure that offers amazing panoramic views from on top. In order to get to the top, you need to purchase a ticket for 3 euros. The price of the ticket includes a free drink so it really is an unbeatable deal. I highly recommend going at sunset, but it is beautiful at all times of the day. In addition, there are ancient roman ruins below Las Setas that you can tour for about 2 euros. It’s an interesting thing to check out while you are there!
Plaza de Espana