Dear Host Family,
It’s my last day in Granada, and we’ve all just finished up eating lunch together. Trini made chicken with the so-good-you-could-drink-it garlic sauce. The grandkids are over, too, and they’re playing fútbol in the dining room—it never seems to be a problem that there’s china and glass picture frames around. I finally feel like my Spanish is good enough to have a full conversation with them, an impressive feat in my mind, even though they’re only one, four, six, and nine years old. I look forward to them coming upstairs nearly every day from their apartment below to see what new trouble they’ll make in abuela and abuelo’s house.
I’m writing this blog post so I can avoid packing. The truth is it feels wrong to leave what has truly come to feel like home. I’ll admit that the adjustment was hard at first; living in someone else’s house and feeling like a bit of an invader. That said, my time living in a host family has been one of the greatest highlights of my time in Granada. While I can see the value in nearly every possible living situation abroad, whether it’s making friends your own age in a residence hall or living independently in an apartment, I could not be happier that I lived with a host family this semester.
I think sometimes students fear they might miss out on some independence abroad if they live in a home stay, but this was certainly not the case. I enjoyed every aspect of study abroad that I had hoped to and never felt as though my home stay held my back from anything. Instead, it was always a safe space to come home, unwind, practice my Spanish and truly feel a part of something.
Living away from family can be so hard, especially when you’re away from your friends at school as well, but coming back from class or a long day to a home-cooked meal and a host mom that calls me hija has transformed a city that I chose to study in into a city that I can call my own. The whole family—parents, sons, grandkids and daughter-in-law’s—has given me an anchor here in Granada. After each day at school or weekend trip I knew that I always had a family to come home to and host parents who were eager to hear my stories.
Especially for students looking to learn a language, I’m not sure there’s a better motivation than pushing yourself to understand and form a bond with the people you live with. It takes time, which can often be frustrating, but with patience and understanding on both sides you can form some truly unforgettable bonds. Some of my proudest moments this semester were coming home and talking for hours straight about our days, something I honestly could not have imagined possible at the beginning of the semester. Flipping through photobooks and reminiscing about family weddings and gatherings reminded me of time spent with my own grandparents doing the same thing.
One of my favorite memories in Granada will always be having my host family and my real family collide. It’s so special to feel like you have a home on both sides of the world and having the people that make you feel that way come together is something that just does not happen often. Even though my parents speak no Spanish we were able to share so much, proving that family love is a universal language.
My home stay experience gave me a window into a different part of Spanish culture that I would have had no way of experiencing otherwise. Relationships with people of different ages, a look at daily routines, hearing about a day at Colegio and Instituto for the kids, eating traditional dishes that you won't find in tapas bars. All of the things that just don’t exist in textbooks.
While I’m saying goodbye to my semester abroad and already tearing up thinking about my departure tomorrow, I’m just saying hasta luego to Granada and especially my host family because they’ve both given me a million reasons to return.
So, to mi familia Española that fed me, taught me, loved me and had patience for me; thanks for making Granada my home and for welcoming me into yours.