A combination of my love of travel and my students. I live in the states and teach English as a New Language. Having students who are living in a country where they don't fully know the language or the culture inspired me to want to better understand what they feel on a daily basis.
Why did you choose Cultural Homestay International?
After researching a couple of organizations, I went with CHI because I felt like they best matched everything that was a looking for. Not only were they affordable, but they were responsive and made me feel at ease every step of the way. I really appreciated that they took the time right from day one to get to know me, and make sure that I was a fit for their organization in the same way that I felt they were a fit for me.
What was your favorite part about Barcelona?
The energy! There was just a real sense of a love for life in Barcelona. While the pace is more relaxed than home, people are social and really value being connected with one another. If you don't mind a little heat, the weather is fantastic. I loved being outside and walking around the city, soaking everything in. You have a little of everything right there, being in a city on the sea that's located between two mountains. Such a rich history there as well! Honestly, you have to feel it to understood it fully.
What made your experience abroad unique?
Living with a host as part of the CHI homestay program. Having the opportunity to live in city for an entire month and experience it with a native quickly left me feeling more and more like a local, or as local as this gal was going to ever be mistaken for. I had time during the days while my host was working to play tourist, and then during the evenings she'd share her city with me in only a way that someone who is from there could.
Did local staff support you throughout your program?
The local staff was very responsive and made me feel very comfortable. They contacted my host the day of my arrival to be sure that we were both settling in well. Within a couple days of my being there they contacted me to be sure that I felt that they had made a good match with my host, and to arrange me to meet with them. I met with them and was given maps and all of the things that I needed to help me get around the city easier. They were always available if I had any questions, or needed suggestions for things not to miss.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I might have liked to have taken a class of some sort, perhaps a language class, to both meet other people and to feel more confident in my ability to communicate. Though the area had a great deal of tourists and language wasn't really an issue, it would have been nice to know more than just the basics.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
A "typical" day could be whatever you make it. In my case, my host worked during the day, so I was on my own. I would take my time in the mornings, not feeling rushed, and then go out exploring the city for a few hours. If it got hot in the afternoons, I would go home to cool down and have lunch. If I felt the need I'd take a brief afternoon siesta before my host got home. After she got home we'd either do our evening English lesson, or plan to meet with friends to see the city and have dinner.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
Seeing all of the many sights around the city. As I mentioned, it's a city rich in history so there is a lot to see. The architecture was incredible.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
My accommodation reminded me a lot of where I live at home. My host was generous enough to give me a larger bedroom with an attached bathroom, so I had my own space. We shared a large living room/dining room space and the kitchen. One thing that I found different from home was that the windows there don't have screens: so I would recommend bring bug spray. While it may not always be the case, I was glad that we had air conditioning!
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
This program requires you to feel confident in your independence. If you're not used to doing things on your own, this program might not be the right fit. What it really comes down to is that there is flexibility to the entire experience and it will be whatever you decide to make it.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
In ways that I don't even think I'm fully aware of yet! I feel much more relaxed and comfortable just enjoying moments more. And I feel stronger, more confident. Knowing I did something that required me to put myself out there, it's a very powerful thing indeed.
Would you recommend CHI to others? Why?
Absolutely! I hope that everything that I have said to this point has already explained why I would recommend CHI. It really is an experience that I think that more people should at the very least consider!
Megan Lawlor is an English as a New Language teacher, working in central New York State public schools with children from various linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Her students range in age from kindergarten to high school. In college, she taught in Australia for a semester. She has also traveled to various locations throughout Europe.