Written by Danny Hsiao, Foster undergraduate
Living with a host family is what I consider the best way to really learn the culture of a country. This semester, I chose to live with a Spanish family that consists of two parents, a son, a daughter, and a dog. It is a very authentic Spanish family who drinks lots of wine and has a Jamón stand in the kitchen for everyday use—yes, Jamón every day. The reason why I wanted to live in a host family is that I only had four months to explore and learn from the whole Spanish culture, and the Spanish culture is such a huge and rich collection of traditions and social values; I figured that living in an authentic host family would be the fastest way to really put myself into the culture and really experience it, and it’s true. Seeing them carefully cutting the Jamón down to a slice of bread with a few drops of olive oil, helping them move about three tons of woods to prepare for winter, sitting at a table with ten more super talkative Spanish family members, and seeing the amazed faces when I wrote down their names in Chinese characters are my best moments throughout the program. Everything they do is so interesting for me. I saw things that I had never seen before almost every day with a host family!
Another good thing about living in a host family is that it’s an all-Spanish environment; there is no other language that you will hear in the house. My host parents don’t speak English at all, but their children know a little. When I first arrived in Pamplona, the daughter was the one who helped me settle down because she is the only one who speaks some English. After she moved out with her fiancé, I was left with two host parents who don’t speak English and a lot of challenges in front of me. However, also because of that, I got to improve my Spanish skills very fast. Starting from the basic daily greeting to sharing my political view of my country, I could see my improvement in Spanish almost daily. My host parents played a huge role in that too. Whenever I had questions or didn’t understand what they were trying to tell me, they would slow down and try to explain that to me in another way. If I still couldn’t get it, they would write the whole sentence down, sometimes even paragraphs, and teach me word by word, until I can repeat what they wanted to tell me. I was literary living with two Spanish professors who are native speakers and very willing to share their knowledge. I am very grateful that I met this family that taught me so much about their country.
I really enjoyed my time living with a Spanish family because I got to learn so much about them and so much about Spain. I got to know the locals’ tips on where to eat and what to see, and I also got to improve my language faster than any of my friends. I would recommend anyone who is doing an exchange to live with a host family.
My host parents cooking
The Christmas Dinner