Students going abroad or living for a short time in Barcelona have a variety of housing options to choose from. Some may opt for university or student residences in the University Zone, while some might choose a regular shared or single apartment depending on their budget. Another great option to consider is a homestay program, where you can live with a local family in Barcelona for a month, a semester or even a year and have an immersive experience you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Why should you do a homestay in Barcelona?
Housing can play a big part in your overall experience in a new country. It can affect how immersed you are in the local culture as well the different kinds of people you will meet and get to know. A homestay with a local family can help you to get to know Barceloneses, enhance your language skills, try local foods and activities and get out of your comfort zone. A host family will provide you with accommodations such as meals and laundry services and also gives you the freedom to come and go as you wish from the apartment. In this way, a homestay allows you to have an independant experience while not being completely isolated. You also don’t have to worry about monthly rent, rental contracts, or other costs and procedures you would have to complete if you were living in an apartment.
Homestay programs in Barcelona
There are a variety of study abroad programs with locations in Barcelona that offer homestays for participants. Some of the popular study abroad programs in Barcelona such as CEA, CIEE, API, and AIFS all offer homestays, and will organize everything to set you up with a family. The program should also provide resources you can go to throughout your stay in the event of a problem or concern, no matter how small. If you are not going directly through a study abroad program, you can also search for an individual housing program that will find you a host family in Barcelona. Habitatge Jove finds carefully selected families for students coming for a semester, academic year, or other lengths of stay. You can email them with information about your type of stay to get started. Another option is Bcn-nest, which specializes in finding warm and welcoming families and offer Skype sessions to discuss what kind of homestay is right for you.
Tips for staying with a host family
– Before you come to Barcelona, it’s a good idea to get a small gift for your host family that represents your home, whether it´s pictures of your favorite areas, chocolate or coffee that your city is famous for, or some other token.
– Nearly all families in Barcelona will live in an apartment, which means you may be living in and sharing a space that is smaller than what you´re used to. Even though you won´t have restrictions like a curfew, it’s still important to respect your family by considering the time of night and keeping your space clean.
– Take advantage of the time you have and talk with your family! Even if you do not know Catalan or Spanish very well, it will be the best way to practice your language skills.
– Be honest with your host family about what you need – it’s a good idea to address any food preferences and personal needs as well as clarify house rules early on in your stay to prevent any misunderstandings.
To get a better idea of the homestay experience, we asked Jacky Smale, an American student currently studying abroad in Barcelona, about her experience with a local host family.
SH: Why did you want to live with a host family?
JS: I wanted to live with a host family to get a richer language and cultural immersion experience! I wanted to participate in local cultural customs and to be challenged to use my Spanish more outside the classroom environment.
SH: What do you get out of living with a host family that you wouldn´t have gotten in another accommodation?
JS: So far I’ve learned a lot about Spanish culture and the language! If I had been living in a dorm type setting I probably wouldn’t be eating dinner at 9 or wearing my shoes in the house. Also I’ve been able to create a connection with some locals who have been able to give me tips and help on where to go and what to do in Barcelona.
SH: What is your host family like?
JS: I live with two grandparents and another girl from my program. María and Luis are welcoming and friendly and helpful- they stay home most the day sewing or watching tv and sometimes have their three grandsons come over which makes the home environment even more fun. They give us privacy and freedom which is another benefit!
If you are interested in staying with a local family but you are not coming to Barcelona for studies, you could consider being an au pair, or live-in nanny, with a host family. Check out our article about au pairing in Barcelona to learn more.
Main photo: danielfoster437 via Visual hunt /