For many of my peers here in Barcelona, the Spaniards that provide the homestay experience to study abroad students are seen solely as the first word in the title “host mother.” I have heard some people say they feel like guests.
That is not how I feel.
Mercé, the spunky 79-year-old chatterbox I am blessed to live with, is more than just my “host.” No, she has taken on much more of a maternal role. She prepares the most amazing food; my mouth is watering just thinking about it. She does our laundry at least once a week, and she told my roommate and I that we are “prohibited” from doing dishes because she claims we are on vacation.
My host mom has taken students from around the world into her home for the past 30 years. She says our company makes her feel young again and happy. She genuinely cares about us and for us.
Students often say they come to Barcelona to “get cultured.” For some, this means standing close enough to the surrealist works of Picasso to see the cracks in dried paint and the precise strides in the brushstrokes of his work. For others, it means venturing through Parc Güell to admire the candy-colored mosaics and real-life gingerbread houses. Or it means sitting in the third row of Camp Nou to watch a Barça fútbol game.
These bucket list items will make a great scrapbook when I return to the States, but I’m starting to realize my fondest memories here aren’t captured by the lens of a camera or a chunky souvenir.
In the years to come, my posed touristy picture in front of La Sagrada Familia will be lost in a Facebook album. The memory of that fiery orange-infused Harry Potter shot from Chupitos will fade from my mind. And that oversized geometric Mango sweater I bought during a “rebaja” somewhere on Passeig de Grácia will most likely be collecting dust in the back of my closet before it’s eventually donated to Goodwill.
But what I won’t forget is the way Mercé’s face lights up when she starts talking about chocolate. I won’t forget the ten-minute explanation I gave her in Spanish of what Shark Week is or the way she answers “Sííííí” on the telephone at least eight times a day. I can’t forget how she spent the day with me in El Born and La Barceloneta when I was lonely because my weekend flight to Madrid was cancelled and all of my friends were out of town. I’ll always remember how she gorged my roommate and I– even after our numerous pleas of “estamos llena,” “quieres matarnos,” and “no puedo, no tengo espacio en mi estómago.” And I’ll remember how we frequently did things like stay up until 2 a.m. singing Frank Sinatra or looking at photo albums of Mercé’s many past lovers.
That, to me, is culture. That is what I am going to remember. When I look back on this, I’ll think of my host mother Mercé and how she was so much more to me than just a host.
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<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Marisa is a sophomore at the University of Florida, majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish. She is an active writer and photographer for her school newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator, and a varsity rower on the UF crew team. In her free time, she enjoys playing guitar, volleyball, cooking, shopping and hanging out with friends. Traveling is Marisa’s biggest passion, and she has wanted to study abroad in Barcelona for some time now. She is most excited to master fluency in the language, immerse herself in the culture, sample exotic cuisines, and explore cities throughout Europe with new and old friends.</span></div>