University of Iowa

Host family or apartment?

January 27th, 2020

My host mom, Ana, and her dog, Pippa

An important decision to make before studying abroad is whether to live with other students in an apartment or with a host family. I lived with a host mom and her two dogs and loved every minute of it. I am a strong advocate for students to live with host families in their homes because I think it gives a more authentic immersion experience. The Spain study abroad programs are especially known for working with amazing families. While there is an increased cost of living with a host family, meals are included. In my semester living with my Spanish mom, I found that not having to cook was just where the benefits started. I was taken in as her daughter, invited to family events, introduced to other host families, given an IKEA-furnished bedroom (the dream), got to have two cute dogs, able to practice my Spanish at home, receive help with homework, had a printer, had a housekeeper, given restaurant tips, taken out to eat, went on walks, joked around, went on weekend hike excursions in the mountains surrounding Valencia, was driven to school every morning, and made a close friend. I cannot speak highly enough about my experience I had with Ana and hope that this may convince you to live with a host family.

I mentioned that I was able to practice my Spanish at home which was one of the reasons I was able to learn so much in just three months. I realized that the practice outside of my Spanish class is what helped me learn the language, and Ana was helpful, patient, and kind towards me and my learning. We spoke Spanish most of the time in the apartment. My friends who lived in apartments learned that even if they intended on speaking and practicing Spanish with their American roommates, it never happened because it was so easy to revert to English. While some students were happy with their decision to live in apartments, many of my friends wish they would have been pushed more to live with a host family.

Luggage and Chargers

There are some items that I survived without but would recommend bringing:

-  4-wheel roller suitcase: I used my grandma’s old 2-wheel suitcase which I learned had a bad wheel once I got to Spain and had to lug the heavy luggage across cobblestone streets...avoid at all costs

-  Portable charger: long travel days call for extra juice, also for safety reasons!

-  A European/foreign charger: duh. I just forgot mine and had to rely on friends until I purchased another

I was happy with my choice to use my school backpack as my personal item, as I could use it during the week for school and on the weekends to travel. I learned how to pack light and save on travel costs by just flying with a personal item.


Our other dog, Coco
My mom, who came to visit me, fit everything for a weekend adventure in her backpack

Emily Carroll, a third-year chemistry student from West Des Moines, Iowa, studied abroad in Spain on the USAC Valencia program.

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