By Lexy Beyer

Want to improve your Spanish? Live like a local? Have someone to show you the ropes and the hidden gems around the city? Living with a host family will give you all these opportunities and more! My name is Lexy and I chose to live with a host family during my time as a student at ALBA Study Abroad Barcelona for Fall quarter of 2021. Here is an insight to my experience and some advice I have for choosing the Family Homestay Option during your time here in Barcelona.

It can be daunting to think about moving abroad in general, let alone potentially living with complete strangers. You may have concerns about living with a host family abroad like “What if I can’t understand them? What if our lifestyles aren’t compatible? What if I don’t like what they eat?” All are valid concerns, and believe me, I thought about all this and more when deciding whether I wanted to try the homestay experience or not. Turns out, you are probably overthinking it like I did and you need to just go and find out for yourself.

Lexy with host sister and friends

My sweet host sister Martina always invited me to hang out with her friends when they came over, and these were possibly the nights that helped me practice my Spanish the most and even learn a little Catalan too!

Language Opportunity

One of the biggest benefits of living with a local family is you get a full, immersive language experience. If you truly want to improve your Spanish while you’re studying abroad, being able to practice it in everyday settings with your host family is incredibly helpful. You’ll learn how to converse about things you need, things that are actually relevant to you, and learn some local terms or slang that will help you navigate the city better. My host family did have a decent level of English, as do the other host families, but they encouraged me to practice my Spanish with them and definitely helped me improve.

Sunrise from Lexy's Bedroom

Sunrise view from my bedroom window during my homestay.

Lifestyle Adjustments

A concern you may have is the compatibility of yours and your host family’s lifestyles. It is true that there is likely to be some differences from what you’re used to at home. You are after all, no longer at home or even on the same continent as your home. Choosing to live abroad means choosing to accept and adjust to a new way of life, and that is one of the most beautiful things about it! Whether you choose a student apartment or family homestay, there will be changes that you will need to adjust to, and one of the benefits of having a host family is that you have someone to explain everything to you. For example, my host family showed me how to use an electric kettle, how to hang my laundry out to dry, where to get a SIM card for my phone, and how to make the most of public transportation around the city. These are things that I probably would’ve spent a lot more time and money on without their help.

Food at Mañanitas

My host family also has a Tex-Mex restaurant in Barcelona, Las Mañanitas. These are some of my favorite tacos there.


Similar to what I’ve previously said, choosing to move abroad means choosing to accept some change, and the same goes for your diet. With the homestay option, you may ask for two of your daily meals to be provided by your host family. Living with locals in a foreign country is the perfect opportunity to branch out from your normal meal routine and try new foods. They likely know how to cook local cuisine, and possibly foods from other places in the world that you’ve never tried before. My host family was originally from Bolivia, so I had the opportunity to eat some amazing Bolivian dishes that I never even knew existed. My host family also had some great recommendations for unique and delicious places to eat all around the city. If you have any dietary restrictions, your host family will accommodate them of course, and if you have certain foods you simply don’t like, they will be understanding of that, too. In addition, you can shop for your own groceries that you’re more familiar with, and even try cooking some of your favorite recipes to share with your host family.

Lexy with family chilling

Spending time on the balcony with Martina, my host mom Ximena, and my other host sister Camila one of my first few days in Barcelona.

My Advice

Living with a host family is an amazing and unique experience. It definitely requires an open mind and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, but so does moving abroad in general! That being said, I do want to include some advice that you should consider when opting for the family homestay option:

First and foremost, ALBA wants to pair you with the best possible host family for you. This means that it is important to communicate your preferences (and deal-breakers) to ALBA early on. For example, I am allergic to cats, so I made sure to communicate that a family with a cat would not be a good situation for me. Ask about the different family dynamics that are available to suit your comfort level as well. Where I lived, it was a house of all females, which was really comfortable for me. There are options for males as well and families with children of different ages. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

The exact same goes for when you are actually living with your host family: communication is key and don’t be afraid to ask questions! This is a great opportunity to put your intercultural competence to practice. If you aren’t sure why your host family does something a certain way, if you need something, or simply want to connect with them, don’t be afraid to speak up. They are excited to have you there too, and want you to feel at home. There will inevitably be some awkward moments along the way, as you are complete strangers sharing a space. Embrace these and learn to laugh through them, they will be a learning and bonding experience more than anything.

Another piece of advice I have is to make sure you engage with other ALBA students as much as possible when you’re at school so you still get the opportunity to make friends and find people to explore with who are also new to the city. This is especially important if you came to Barcelona without knowing other students in the program beforehand. Stay connected to everyone so you don’t get into a routine of relying only on your host family for things to do.