Why live in a homestay?

Isabella Courtenay-Morris
October 2, 2017
A photo of my roommates and I with Antonia, our host mother.

Choosing housing can be a daunting step in the study abroad process. Especially when there are many possibilities to choose from. When deciding which housing option would suit me, I found myself asking, “How will I know the best place to live?” “Will it suit my needs?” “Is it cost-effective?” and “Will I get along well with my roommates?” Committing to a living space abroad for four months challenges students to consider whether they want to push themselves out of their comfort zone. Though, when in a new environment, it is comforting to have a space to call your own.

IES Abroad gives students four options for housing in Barcelona. The first is a homestay, you and another student are hosted by a local family or individual. The hosts prepare breakfast and dinner for the students throughout the duration of the program. Another popular option is apartment living. Many students I've met, live with a few others in apartment buildings dispersed throughout the main neighborhoods in the city. A Barcelona Cultural Companion (BCC) sometimes lives with students! It's an amazing option for students seeking a truly independent experience as they are responsible for their own meals, laundry, cleaning etc. The third option is residence halls/dormitories. So far, I haven't met too many people with this situation. It's a great way to meet other international and local students, plus a meal plan is included. I've even heard of one dorm that has a gym and rooftop pool! Whichever option students chose, everyone I've met seems quite content with their living arrangements! I sure am.

I chose the homestay option, primarily for financial reasons. However, I saw the potential of living with a local. I hoped to improve my Spanish, learn more about Spanish culture, and try traditional cuisine! I definitely lucked out. A friend of mine participated in the IES Abroad - Barcelona Business and Liberal Arts program last year and insisted that I request her homestay. IES Abroad assigned me to it along with two friends of mine from university.

The day I arrived in Barcelona, my host mother Antonia welcomed me with a huge hug and sloppy kisses on each of my cheeks. She promptly showed me to my room complete with an incredibly comfortable bed and my own balcony. I was even more pleased to discover the pool and tennis court in the backyard. In terms of amenities, I can't complain.

A photo of my roommates and I with our host mother.

My homestay bedroom.

A view of my neighborhood from my bedroom balcony.

Antonia is an amazing woman. She is comfortably retired, lives alone in a spacious four-bedroom apartment, and goes dancing with her friends every Sunday and Wednesday night. Honestly, she lives the life I hope to when I'm in my late sixties. She’s also hilarious. Antonia says absurd things every so often. She constantly swoops us up to dance flamenco in the living room, tells us wild stories from her younger years, and even ones from quite recently. With the current political state of Catalonia and Spain being so fragile, it's been fascinating to discuss the referendum with her.

A Flamenco festival in our district.

My host's apartment building can be seen from the top of the stairs leading to the Bunkers del Carmel.

Living with Antonia has enriched my experience immensely. I love the fact that I can come home from a long day of classes and don't have to worry about doing groceries, let alone cooking dinner. Basically, all domestic tasks that most college students are great at avoiding in the first place. Each meal she makes is a new Spanish dish. So far, we have eaten delicious meals of paella, tortilla Española, patatas bravas, meaty pasta dishes, and crema Catalana desserts. Our conversations are broken, but we work through it with Spanglish and mini-games of charades. I notice my Spanish improving every day.

A typical croissant breakfast at our homestay.

A typical dinner (la cena) at our homestay.

An eggplant dish for dinner.

Our neighborhood is further away than most homestays, but it’s certainly a hidden gem. We live in an outer suburb in the Horta-Guinardó district. The famous Bunkers del Carmel are within walking distance. The Bunkers boast panoramic views of the city. From the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor (Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) to the Mediterranean Sea. Each time I’ve run up to the top of the Bunkers, there are people scattered around drinking wine and picnicking at sunset. I’m astonished by the view, and suggest it to anyone studying here in Barcelona or even just visiting! The Parc del Laberint d’Horta (Labyrinth Park of Horta) is also close to us. The park is a historical garden with pavilions, sculptures and a hedge maze on the lower terrace. Though I have yet to go, it’s high on my priority list!

A view of Barcelona from the Bunkers del Carmel at sunset.

A panoramic view of Barcelona from the Bunkers del Carmel.

So far, no complaints from me! I love living with a local resident and highly recommend it to future students!

¡Hasta luego!

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Isabella Courtenay-Morris

<p>My parents are ski instructors and chased Winter seasons between Australia and the U.S. I was born in Australia, but at six-months-old, I began traveling between each country. I was educated in both countries, transferring between schools in Aspen, Colorado and Port Macquarie, New South Wales every semester. I have been very fortunate to travel to various parts of the world, all while gaining an appreciation for differing cultures and discovered the power of travel as a learning tool.</p>

2017 Fall
Home University:
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Bonny Hills, Australia and Aspen, Colorado
Global Studies
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