For whatever reason, be it nervousness about not speaking the same language or fear of having different living habits, many students I know are hesitant to live with host families. I can say with certainty, however, that one of my favorite parts of studying abroad thus far has been my family. I believe that living with a family in their own home has given me the feeling that I am having a real, authentic experience of what it is like to live in Buenos Aires in a way that staying in an apartment with other Americans could not. Integrating myself into the normal life of an Argentine family makes me feel less like I am a “visitor” to the country for six months.
My family consists of an older couple with three grown children, one of whom stills lives at home to study (which is typical here), and an old black lab. Because my host parents work and I am usually at school or out exploring during the day, the majority of our interactions occur every night at dinner. Dinners have served as a great way to both practice Spanish and get to know my host family better; there is always something new to talk about or learn (they like to learn English words too). Additionally, my host parents always love telling me where to go and what to see in the city—suggestions that I would not be able to find online or in a touristy guidebook.
To dispel any false notions about living with a host family that often lead students to choose different options: no, staying with a family does not “hold you back” in any way. Any time I am home at night my host mom asks why I’m NOT “saliendo” (going out), and when I come back early (which, by Argentine standards is 3am) she jokes that I should stay out later. No, language differences do not put up a barrier. My host family knows I am not fluent in Spanish, and they are always patient and helpful when I speak more slowly or pause to think about what I want to say. Despite not fully speaking the same language, we are able to discuss everything from politics to the best places in the neighborhood for ice cream. My family has been nothing but kind and supportive to me since the day that I arrived to their apartment at 6am, exhausted and nervous after more than a full day of travel. I love having a real home to call “home” here, and I am excited to get to know my host family even better during the rest of my time abroad.