This is Not a Hotel

Janae-Rose F. is currently a sophomore at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Charlotte Country Day School in North Carolina.

My family back home is the best. I totally reject the “distant, moody, teenager” role and openly show affection towards them. We are always there for each other come hell or high water, and most times they understand me more than I understand myself. Because of my amazing family in the U.S., I was dubious that my family here could compare. So far, they’ve been phenomenal.

My host parents are patient, helpful, supportive,and most importantly, genuinely care about me and everything I’m going through. Life doesn’t pause when you’re abroad, you still have problems, and challenges, and homework (I know, even miles away from home, homework follows you). Every day is an exciting adventure, but sometimes we can get in difficult situations. Sometimes, being abroad can amplify little inconveniences. For example, getting lost can be a much bigger deal in Spain than in a city you’re familiar with. The other day I found myself lost, deep into a neighborhood on the opposite side of the river than my destination. The bus system works differently for the annual Pilares festival, and the whole situation was stressful in general. Not wanting to bother my host parents, I was out for way too long trying to find a way back to the house instead of calling home. When I walked into the house, my host mom
immediately knew that something was wrong. Once she finally got me to talk, her initial response was “Why didn’t you call us?”. To her, it was the only logical next step after getting lost and confused. She continued, “For the next nine months, you are my daughter. Not just for the fun parts but also for whenever you need us. I want to see you happy”. Once my host mom told my host dad what happened, he appeared in my doorway. He was almost indignant at the notion that I was completely alone and thought I’d bother them by calling. Very firmly, my host dad told me to never do that again. My host mom made me some tea because she knows I love tea, watched my favorite TV show with me, and, eventually, I calmed down.

I also began thinking and realized all the little ways my host parents have shown me they care. They always make sure I’ve eaten enough and pack me snacks for school. I thought about how my host mom introduces me to her friends “¿Has conocido mi hija, Rose?”(“Have you met my daughter, Rose?”). The way she says it is like I am just a part of the family. My family has made it so easy to integrate with them. The more time we spend together, I learn about the twenty-two students they’ve had before me, stories about their kids, who don’t live in the house anymore, and inside jokes. All of these things go a long way when you’re far from home in a new country for nine months.

I remembered my host mom saying that the house isn’t a hotel for food and sleep but a house for us to be a family. She was right, host families work to incorporate you into their household. It’s easy to think that we have to be independent and figure everything out for ourselves, but that’s not the case. After talking with other students, I can tell that the host families are good at keeping a harmonious environment where we can be comfortable. Obviously, there are a few cultural differences (I may or may not secretly walk around without my house slippers on when no one is looking), but the families are prepared to handle them. As long as you come with an open mind, you can experience a truly beautiful culture through your parents. They care about you and want the best experience for you in your host country. While nothing compares to the feeling of being home with your real family, host families care about you and make sure you never have to feel alone.

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