Living Arrangements in Barcelona: Homestay vs. Apartment Stay

Earlier this week Study Abroad Spotlight intern Katie Buonpastore wrote about her decision to live with a host family in Rome, Italy. Now for another perspective: guest blogger Kimberly Dallmann writes about the pros and cons of living with a host family vs. living in an apartment and why living with a host family just wasn’t for her.

Kimberly's bed in her host family's home.

Kimberly’s bed in her host family’s home.

As a student who has had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain for a full academic year, I have also had the opportunity to experience both a homestay and an apartment stay. Before I arrived to Barcelona for my first semester, I knew that I’d be living with a host family and I’ll admit, it didn’t make me overly excited. I knew that it would help me improve my Spanish and that was without a doubt a plus, so I decided to give it a chance; but as the semester progressed I realized more and more that a homestay wasn’t for me. Living with a host family has its pros and cons, and so does living in an apartment. It’s all a matter of what you prefer, and I have enjoyed my apartment quite a bit more than I did my homestay. Let’s get started with why a homestay wasn’t for me, and then that will bring me to the pros and cons of living with a host family.

I turned out to be one of those college kids that never moved back home after graduation, which should say a lot. If you have become accustomed to living on your own, you would be surprised at how uncomfortable it is to move back into someone’s house, especially when it’s not your own family. When I first met my family the ground rules were laid out, which was fine with me because I don’t have a problem respecting someone’s rules in their house. There wasn’t anything that I was so taken aback by and I thought everything would be fine considering I was told I never had to do my own laundry, cook, and that I didn’t have a curfew.

If those are things that appeal to you, then you would love a homestay. It’s funny how I was excited about these things at first, but by the end of the semester I was going crazy. I felt so agitated that I couldn’t cook, couldn’t do my own laundry, and that my host family felt disconnected. At first I was excited to take a break from what I thought were silly “chores,” but by the end of the semester I felt like the privilege of cooking and cleaning had been taken away from me.

This now brings me to the pros and cons of living with a host family. These are the pros and cons that I experienced and could very well be different depending on the host family.

Pros:

1). I didn’t have to cook, clean, or do my own laundry (which actually became a con by the end of the semester).
2). I didn’t have a curfew and I had my own set of keys.
3). Host families can offer you knowledge about where you’re studying abroad.
4). You will be forced to practice the language no matter what.

Now The Cons:

1). If you don’t like the food that’s provided for you and ask for something different, it’s possible that nothing may be done about it.
2). I wasn’t allowed to use the oven or stove to cook my own food.
3). You may get placed with a family who has hosted so many students that they don’t make an effort to spend time with you outside of their home.
4). You may get placed with a family that hosts students just to bring in some extra cash

In my opinion, the cons outweigh the pros by a lot, but like I said, it depends on what you prefer.

Settling into her new apartment in Barcelona.

Settling into her new apartment in Barcelona.

Now, let’s get started with how it is living in an apartment in Barcelona. I live in a beautiful, traditional, four bedroom apartment in barrio Gràcia with two Spanish girls and an English boy from Manchester, England. When I first got to my apartment I was completely speechless – my program really went out of their way to make me comfortable after how unhappy I was last semester. My apartment is spacious and I have my own balcony overlooking the street, which is my absolute favorite part about the apartment. My roommates and I get along, which is nice. We are all pretty quiet people and are all students and that has worked out great so far. There has never been a disagreement, never more than a gentle reminder of who needs to wash their dishes. We greet each other and ask how things are going, but don’t feel obligated to hangout at the same time. There is a general understanding about this from what I’ve experienced. Sometimes I wish that we talked more or did things together, but we all have such different schedules that it’s just nice to be able to say hello when we see each other and leave it at that. So, here are the pros and cons of living in an apartment.

Pros:

1). I get the chance to live with other Spanish students who are close to my age.
2). Because I live with Spanish students, I get all the information on the ins and outs of Barcelona.
3). You can have anyone you want over and there isn’t a rule that says they can’t sleepover.
4). You can have alcohol in your apartment.
5). You save money on housing fees.
6). You get to cook and do your own laundry.
7). We have a cleaning lady to clean the shared spaces – the bathroom, living room, and kitchen – and this helps to avoid deciding who has to clean what.

Now The Cons:

1). If something in the apartment needs to be fixed, it’s your responsibility to make sure your landlord knows and takes care of it.
2). Your roommates might have schedules that prevent you from hanging out and getting to know one another.
3). You may have neighbors who are close to your age, but twice as loud.

The doors leading out to Kimberly's "absolute favorite part about the apartment" - the balcony overlooking the street.

The doors leading out to Kimberly’s “absolute favorite part about the apartment” – the balcony overlooking the street.

As you can see, in my opinion, there are a lot more pros to living in an apartment as a student rather than living with a host family. If you’re worried about practicing the language with native speakers every day but think that a homestay is not for you, I’d recommend that you do research and find an intercambio (tandem partner) in addition to breaking out of your comfort zone and trying to meet local people to befriend. Befriending locals is actually the biggest piece of advice I can give because at the end of the day, locals can help you with just about anything. Homestay or apartment stay, I really hope that you go out of your way to make local friends.

That being said, whichever housing option you choose, please choose wisely. You don’t want to go a whole semester being miserable because you’re not comfortable with the place where you lay your head down at night.

KimberlyDallmann Kimberly Dallmann is currently studying in Barcelona, Spain with Barcelona SAE and CISAbroad. She is in her third year of college at North Central College and will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish.

Stephanie Milkey

Stephanie studied abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica through CISabroad. She plans to return to Costa Rica to complete an internship with a nonprofit organization, focusing on community[...]

Noah Peden

Noah studied abroad/volunteered in Brazil, Costa Rica, Philippines, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Thailand and Peru and now works as an Outreach Coordinator for GoAbroad.com.

 
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