Host families

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.



This past summer in Spain, I took multiple weekend trips with a group of my friends from my school program. A great way to save money and energy while traveling is to travel LIGHT. Most trips were only about 3 days each, and I was able to fit everything I needed into one backpack. I never had to lug around multiple bags or suitcases, and I saved at least 20-30 euros on each flight by not checking a bag (it is not fun dealing with lost baggage in a foreign country). Most airlines have bag size requirements for carry-ons, but a modest sized backpack is usually within those limits.

Granted my trip was in the summer and required less/smaller clothing, but in winter months I would recommend wearing outerwear on the flight to save bag space (the cabins are normally chilly anyway). And when I would bring multiple pairs of shoes, I would tie the second pair together by the laces and string them through the loop on my backpack to save space.

Travel light: save money, space, and energy.



During the summer, I stayed in hostels almost every time I traveled. Most hostels have single, double, and group rooms for very reasonable prices, I would recommend booking a few weeks in advance to price shop as well as make sure your whole group is accommodated. The rooms with more privacy and access to bathrooms will typically be the most expensive, but still beat hotel prices most times. I would also recommend purchasing a lock, as most hostels have lockers for personal items (very convenient, nice to have peace of mind). I did not have many problems with hostels, and typically the other travelers were in my age range. The most useful service for finding hostels was Hostel World, you can view information and reviews and even book/pay for your stay. Their website and customer service are both great. I had a positive experience with hostels and recommend them, especially for groups.


Public transit:

In every country I visited, I used public transportation to get around in metro areas in a quick and convenient way. In Barcelona, rode the metro (subway) to save time and money. There are texis but the metro is much cheaper. You can get into the metro for about a dollar each time, and ride to any point in the entire city. You can literally ride the metro all day if you want to, once you are in then you are in. Usually, I would walk to my destination if it was within a few blocks or if I was not in a rush, the weather was great most days. The nice thing about the metro is that you can buy the passes in bulk, and you can also buy an unlimited pass for a month or multiple months. ALSO remember to keep your receipts for your passes if it is a large amount. If you lose your physical card you can have the staff print you a new one for free. The transit staff is typically very helpful and understanding, many people lose the small card that is used for getting on the metro.