We all have them – those secret expectations that almost always leave us disappointed in the end, that reminds us that we really should drop our inherent need to have expectations. And still, the cycle continues. For me, my one solid expectation had to do with living in a homestay.
Let’s be completely honest: when I came into this experience, I was exhilarated about living with a Spanish family and my mind was aflutter with all of the benefits (preconceived of my own dreamy volition or otherwise implanted by the various study-abroad advocates with whom I had spoken) that such an experience would entail. Improved language acquisition, traditional Spanish meals, invitations to family events, and spending a good portion of my time with my new family were all at the forefront of my mind. However, the universe likes to serve us a good dose of reality when we need it most, and it turns out that reality would fall terribly short of the ideals I had set up in my mind for this experience.
And what, exactly, is that reality, you may ask? First: my schedule is so packed that I spend absolutely NO time with my homestay family outside of the occasional dinner, and thus don’t get to practice my Spanish with them as much as I could. Second: I spend a good portion of my time feeling like an unwelcome guest in what is supposed to be my home. A good 75% of the time, my homestay mom is in a poor mood and is noticeably perturbed by my presence. I know that I’m really nothing more than a paycheck to her (Spain is experiencing a financial crisis, after all), but even when I have hated my jobs in the past, I at least make an effort to be cordial. Third: I am paying way too much money to feel like an unwelcome guest OR receive poorer quality food than what I would serve myself when I am a broke-as-a-joke student in the USA (rice with some sort of sauce is NOT a meal for the amount of money she gets from me). Additionally, I think it’s a complete joke that I have to pay full month’s rent for January and May when I am only here for half of each of those months, especially with my grievances from above considered.
Studying abroad has encouraged me to be flexible in areas that I wasn’t expecting to need flexibility. I’ve had to acknowledge my disappointment that my homestay isn’t all it was expecting it to be…but what in life is exactly what we expect, after all? All in all, this experience is what you make of it. I may not be getting my “ideal” situation out of my homestay, but I do still appreciate what I am getting (a roof over my head, a homemade meal, some time to practice my Spanish with my homestay mom, my laundry done, my linens changed, etc.).
Luckily, I have received my “ideal experience” through the family with whom I volunteer – I would have to say that my expectations for my homestay were almost entirely met by my t-oigo family. Thus, with that in mind, if I could turn back time and do it all over again, I think I would opt to live in an apartment instead, and get my “ideal” Spanish experience of my own accord…but since I can’t do that? I recommend to you, oh reader with intentions of studying abroad: homestay at your own risk, because only a small percentage of students end up with the ideal homestay experience. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.