Mi Familia Anfitriona (Host Family)

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.

The IES staff picked me up from the airport and took me directly to my host home to meet mi mamá. Within minutes of walking into the door, mi mamá insisted on taking a selfie to send to her daughter!

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).

Here’s the kitchen where all the magic of Chilean cuisine happens! It’s a bit tight and surely nothing extravagant, but I love the coziness of our apartment!

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!

First Impressions

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The view from the restaurant window where the IES leaders took us to eat on the first day. Look at those mountains! Too beautiful!

The altitude takes some getting used to, but the view is phenomenal! This season is the rainy season in Quito, so it’s been mostly cloudy (Quito has two seasons: dry and rainy). However, when the sun comes up it gets HOT! I made sure to pack some SPF 50 sunscreen bottles to protect my skin.

So far I’ve met the other students who I’ll be studying with this next semester and the IES program coordinators/directors in Quito. We signed a contract to pledge that we would only speak in Spanish throughout our time here (except for emergencies, etc.) to really immerse ourselves in the language. Luckily for me, I already have a lot of experience con el español, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

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The main dish at the restaurant on day one: ensalada, pollo, y arroz.
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The rice was in the shape of a pyramid!

Still… there are some words that I don’t understand/use because they are not common in Mexican Spanish. For example, I didn’t know that ñaño(a) could be used in place of hermano(a). That confused me a little. Also, Ecuadorians use the word chévere to describe something that is cool or awesome or great. When I Skype with my parents in a couple of weeks, I’m going to inevitably use chévere in my conversations.

Speaking of Skype, I video-chatted with my parents last night to let them know I got here safely (but I used Facebook Messenger instead). They were super worried that I hadn’t called sooner. Ah, I love my parents, but they worry too much! I told them about the lovely host family who welcomed me with lots of hugs and kisses (I’m not making this up). My Ecuadorian family is super kind and affectionate, as most Ecuadorians are.

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My cozy room in Quito 🙂

I’m excited for this next week since I’ll still be in my IES orientation. They’re taking us to explore Quito and other nearby cities! So until next time, mis amigos. I’ll leave you with this view from the 12th floor of the IES building. ¡Que se la pasen muy chévere!

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Looking west towards the Pichincha Volcano from the IES building’s balcony.