“Integration” and My Spanish Home

I am in full-bellied repose, as I am most evenings just after dinner in my cozy homestay. Dinner with my señora during the week has been one of my routines since Day One, but what struck me tonight especially is just how routine, in a wonderful way, our relaxed evenings together have become.


Some students live with multi-person families (a few even have puppies!), others, like me, live with a señora. My señora’s partner lives with us on the weekends, but during the week, it’s just us mujeres. While returning to an empty apartment on the occasional weekday afternoon can leave me wishing for a host sibling or canine friend to keep me company, I wouldn’t want to live with any other family. Every night, my señora and I chat over a delicious home-cooked meal, and lately we’ve been lingering at the table for about an hour. Our conversation varies from quotidian things like our days at work and school, what kinds of clothes we like and how she prepared tonight’s dish, to more adventurous subjects: places we want to travel, international politics, and Spanish culture. Tonight she explained the Spanish saying that when people feel very united, they are said to be “like a pinecone.” I’ll let you have the fun of figuring that one out on your own.


After spending many of these evenings together, we’ve reached a new level of familiarity. My señora truly has been like a mother to me since the day I moved in to her comfy apartment, when she affectionately took care of me and my nerve-wrenched stomach. But now, with these conversations and small confidences, we are becoming more like friends, too. I have shared some of my favorite moments in Madrid with her: watching Pretty Woman for the first time, dubbed in Spanish, after a difficult day, and sitting transfixed by a zarzuela (light opera) concert to which she treated me.


Tonight I was reminded again of how lucky I am to have such a great homestay. I told my señora that I’m trying to make friends with some Spanish students in my university class but I’m not sure whether it will work out. She told me in response that I am a very “integrated” person, that I do a good job of making myself part of the family and immersing myself in Spain and my program. I’m still glowing. The compliment helped me realize that, contrary to what I often think, I do fit here. And what’s more, I have the unique opportunity to make a routine out of speaking Spanish and hanging out with a woman that I like and admire very much.