The program I applied to (teaching and studying in San Jose, Costa Rica) came bundled with a homestay. I hadn’t studied abroad prior to this so I didn’t know too much about what the homestay experience would be like. After some quick googling, I came to the conclusion that homestays are either a nightmare or a dream come true. As soon as I met my homestay family, I was motivated to write this article so that anyone who is planning on living in a homestay can see that not all homestays are a nightmare and that they should not be scared to take a risk in it. For me, my homestay actually made my time in Costa Rica so much more memorable. I not only met some amazing people, but I also had the chance to experience living like a local.
My homestay included the mom and dad (which we all called abuela and abuelo) who owned a two-story house with five rooms. Along with the abuelo and abuela, there were four other study/intern abroad students; three of them had their own room and one of them (another USF student) shared the room with me. The night we arrived at the house, the family invited us to celebrate one of their son’s birthday and the abuelo explained to me that they (the family) were not originally from the city. He told me that they were from the countryside and liked to keep their parties small with only their nuclear family being a part of it. At that moment, I felt like I was intruding their intimate family moment, but before I could apologize, he told me that we (students) were a part of their family. Every day after that, we were all treated not just like locals, but like family.
Every morning we were served a filling breakfast which usually included coffee, fresh fruits, rice with black beans, and seasoned scrambled eggs –there were days the abuela served us sandwiches or cereal instead. The dinners were always different but we would often eat white rice, black beans, sweet plantains, beef, fruit juice, and a cabbage slaw. Sometimes the family’s 8-year old granddaughter would come eat with us too. Although the abuela and abuelo did not eat with us (as customary to the Costa Rican household), all the students ate together. Since we were all from different parts of the world, we used this time to share our experiences in the country and exchange stories. Their camaraderie was definitely a surprise to me and one that I will never forget.
The family was ever so welcoming to us students. They constantly asked us if we needed help with anything and if our day had been a good one. I can honestly say that my experience studying in Costa Rica wouldn’t have been the same had I not stayed in a homestay. I would not have live in a typical city house, eaten the food, or experienced the spontaneous lifestyle. That being said, I highly suggest that if it is your first time studying abroad, you should consider living in a homestay. Bon voyage!