Already Part of the Spanish Family
A glimpse at the first weeks of two roommates living with a Spanish family and studying abroad in Spain
Want to study abroad in Spain? Curious about what it’s like to live with a Spanish family? Unsure of the transition into Spanish life or how you will adjust to the culture of Spain? Have no fear! Makena and Aidenn, two university students who are currently living with a Spanish family in Seville as roommates, answer questions about their first experiences studying abroad in Spain, living with a Spanish host family, and transitioning into the culture of Spain and Spanish lifestyle.
After two weeks of being fully immersed into the Spanish life in Seville and living with a Spanish host family, Makena and Aidenn answer important questions that every future study abroad student (or parent!) wants answers to. Especially if you have never traveled out of the country, the thought of studying abroad can seem daunting! Let’s see what two students from the US really think about their experiences in a study abroad program and life with a Spanish family just two weeks after arriving in Spain.
What are your thoughts about Centro MundoLengua? How were your first experiences with MundoLengua and what were your first impressions of the program?
Makena: MundoLengua made me feel welcome immediately! Everybody is so helpful! I did not realize that it would be this hard to adjust to life abroad or transition to living in Spain with a Spanish family. (My father is from Spain and I spend the summers in Spain with my grandma… but moving in with a Spanish family that you don’t know is a completely different experience!) There are so many MundoLengua people ready to help with anything and everything at any time, and you can tell that they truly care about you! All of the MundoLengua Staff are so willing to help.
Aidenn: The size of MundoLengua is awesome and so accessible! It feels really personal… in other programs, there are too many people and you don’t get the personalized experience like you do with MundoLengua. The MundoLengua staff is awesome– you can just send them messages on Facebook and they’re there to help! Especially when you’re not used to the Spanish life yet or settled in with your Spanish family, everything MundoLengua helps with is so important and needed. My favorite part about MundoLengua is the one-on-one contact.
We already feel like part of the MundoLengua family! MundoLengua is like a Spanish family in itself.
Makena: One of the biggest aspects of MundoLengua is that they validate your adjustment period (adjusting to life in Spain, living with a Spanish family, and just being away from your home in a new city)… with other study abroad programs, you’re just expected to jump right in and immediately be perfectly comfortable as if it’s any other normal day. With MundoLengua, they understand that there is an adjustment period and it takes a little bit of time to get completely warmed up to a Spanish family and settled in to life in Spain– they’re there every step of the way through this entire process and willing to help with anything.
What were your first moments like with your Spanish family? How did you feel and what were your first thoughts?
Aidenn: Overwhelming. I have a base knowledge of Spanish, but I am not fluent. Moving in with a Spanish family that only speaks Spanish is a steep learning curve. However, now (after only two weeks), I feel super comfortable with my Spanish host mom and already feel like I’m part of the family. The Andalusian accent is difficult to understand at first, but living with an Andalusian Spanish host family is improving my Spanish skills to where I can now actually understand the Andalusian accent! I already feel better about my Spanish and I love my Spanish host sister and Spanish host mom!
Makena: Aidenn is already getting better with Spanish after this short amount of time and I can watch her Spanish improving every day. It’s awesome to have a roommate that’s another student while you are living with a Spanish family, because it validates that your Spanish is improving way more than you think. I absolutely love my Spanish family. Our host mom is so welcoming. Even on the first day of moving in with my Spanish family, I immediately felt at home because our host mom and host sister welcomed us like we were part of the family. Now, we really are part of the family.
Our Spanish mom calls us her hijas (daughters)! We are both completely settled in and already have a loving bond with our host mom and host sister. It was such an easy transition. We really feel like we could go to our Spanish mom for anything and talk to her about everything. Our Spanish host sister will be leaving in a couple weeks and we are already bummed! We know we’re going to miss her- we have all integrated into one cohesive family unit! We actually cannot even imagine having to say goodbye to our Spanish mom… especially after living with our host family for 3 more months! There will definitely be a lot of tears at the despedido (farewell/goodbye)!
Aidenn: During the first week, I had thoughts like “Oh, I kinda wanna go back home… I miss my family, friends, city, etc.” but now I totally understand why everybody loves to study abroad! I don’t want to leave Spain now and most likely will continue studying abroad here in Seville with MundoLengua during the Spring semester as well!
What do you think of Spain? What were your first thoughts about the Spanish culture? Did you see or experience anything that surprised you?
We are both surprised at the Spanish culture of food… it is something that we were not expecting! In a Spanish family, it’s always “Eat more!” or “Here’s more food!” Even when we are not hungry, our Spanish mom always offers us snacks and asks if we want anything to eat. This is an adjustment into the Spanish culture, because there is always a lot of food!
Another interesting aspect of Spanish culture is that everybody here talks really loud and really fast! Sometimes it’s confusing to read a Spaniard’s emotions. With our Spanish family, at times we think “Are you mad…? Is everything ok…?” But there is never a problem, we are just not used to everybody being so outgoing!
Something else we have noticed about Spanish culture is that the personal space is different (in Spain there is a smaller personal bubble). Aidenn: “I like it!” Makena: “I still have to get used to it.”
What do you think about the Metro? Do you like it? How do you feel about using Spanish public transportation to commute to school?
(Note: Some of the university students studying abroad here in Seville take their courses at the University of Pablo Olavide which is about 15-20 minutes from the historic city center. Students use the Metro system in Seville for easy transport to and from the university.)
The Metro isn’t bad, it just extends the day a little bit longer. We enjoy the commute though! The Metro in Seville was primarily made for the university, so every day it is filled with a ton of international students speaking in all different languages, and it’s really awesome! We love to people watch on the Metro! Taking the Spanish Metro is a great experience because it makes you feel independent! MundoLengua hooked us up and gave us fully-loaded Metro cards and everything. I feel extremely independent and responsible to just get on the Metro on my own with my card and go to and from school. MundoLengua helped us with EVERYTHING! They showed us every single step of the way and walked us through how to use the Metro, and how to get around campus to each class or place we would need to go. This has been extremely helpful because the university is huge! I feel like a true Spaniard traveling around the city now.
What are your thoughts about studying abroad in general? From your experience in Spain and living with a Spanish family so far, would you recommend studying abroad to others?
First thoughts: #FOMO (AKA- Fear of missing out)
Makena: A con about studying abroad is that it’s like you were just taken out of your life and plopped into a whole new world and new life (but that’s kind of exactly the point!!). However, the pros of studying abroad or living in Spain and experiencing life with a Spanish family, you can’t even quantify. The way I look at it is that you’re seeing literally the whole world. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience and you see so much and learn so much, that you could never even compare it to anything else. Studying abroad and living life in Spain far outweighs any con that could exist. I think it’ll actually be really hard now to return to “regular” life at my home university once I go back because this experience is so incredible.
Aidenn: Our home university has a huge study abroad culture, so everybody is always studying abroad and taking different semesters abroad. All of my friends back in the US actually have FOMO from seeing all the things that I’M doing and the places I’M going! (Who wouldn’t be jealous of this incredible opportunity in Spain?) So the FOMO goes both ways… but probably more the other way from the US. I’m considering extending my study abroad program for another full semester. Studying abroad with MundoLengua is actually more financially affordable for me because I am “out of state” at my university. So the cost to live here in Spain with a Spanish family and study abroad is actually saving me money! I also have personal tutoring sessions with Auxi (a MundoLengua staff member) to improve my Spanish. It’s extremely useful to get that extra time (2 hours/week) to work on whatever I need.
Without a doubt, we both 100% recommend studying abroad to everybody! Studying abroad is definitely an experience that you cannot pass up. When else can you say that you lived abroad in a foreign country? Where else can you say that you experienced daily life with a Spanish family and became part of that family? How else can you immerse yourself into the Spanish language and culture to such an extent? The answer to all of these is you can’t! There is absolutely nothing else that you could compare to this experience. So just take the leap of faith and just do it! There really is nothing to lose!
Makena Barron and Aidenn Burnside are two university students from the College of William and Mary that are currently participating in the Fall Semester study abroad program with Centro MundoLengua studying the Spanish language and culture through immersion in Seville, Spain.