When looking at the various options for study abroad, I always knew I wanted to do a homestay. However, I did not realize how pivotal this decision would be until actually being 10,000 miles from my own home and family! Here’s a little look into my homestay in Santiago, Chile.
Mi mamá lives in an apartment in Santiago with her 30-year-old daughter. In Chile, it is very common for young adults to live with their parents until their late 20s or early 30s! Even universities do not have dorms or on-campus housing, so the majority of students commute to university while still living under their parents’ roofs.
Host parents not only cook your meals (mi mamá happens to be an incredible cook… sorry, Phelps Dining) and do your laundry, but they are your support system and a dependable resource while abroad. This is only my fourth night in my host home, but I can always count on a warm greeting with “un beso” on the cheek when I enter the door, a heating pad full of hot water to warm my feet at night during the cold Chilean winters, an invitation to watch a soap opera in our pajamas, and good conversation over a cup of tea or maté.
The seasons are opposite here in Chile as they are United States. Although Chilean winters are significantly milder than Michigan winters, energy is very expensive, so the majority of homes do not have central heating. Luckily, mi mamá makes my bed with 7 layers of sheets to keep me nice and cozy at night.
Host families are great at accommodating for your dietary preferences, but they will always introduce you to the local cuisine, too! Here is my first dinner: cazuela (a traditional Chilean stew with beef, potatoes, and other veggies), leche de almendras y ensalada. Muuuuuy rico.
As thankful as I am for the way mi mamá has welcomed me in and provided for me already, I am more thankful for the immense grace and patience she gives me! She stays attentive in conversation as I wrack my brain for the English to Spanish translation, explains over and over how to get from our apartment to the bus stop, and is quick to forgive when I forget to unplug the space heater (again).
It certainly is a transition to go from living in dorms and with friends to entering into a family’s home, but it is the only way to fully experience the warmth of South American culture!
This is not to say that I am not missing my own mom back home, but what a gift it is to have a mamá here, too!