University of Salamanca Housing
March 25, 2009 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Help me choose living accomodations while studying abroad in Spain!

Starting at the end of August, I will be studying abroad at the University of Salamanca.

This involves a one month "intensive month" and the Fall Trimester and Winter Trimester.

As of now, I have planned to live with a host family for the first month and the Fall Trimester, and then switch to the Residencia for the Winter Trimester to get the best of both worlds.

What do you think? Any suggestions? Any experiences with anything similar?
posted by PaulingL to Travel & Transportation around Spain (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Purely anecdotal - I did host family in Argentina (basically because they didn't really want me there) and then residencia in Spain. I had a much more enjoyable experience in the Residencia, and I had a much more active social life (a highlight in Spain). My friends in families in Spain seemed to regret it because they were a bit out of the social loop, but that was pre-cell phones, so that may not be as much of an issue now. And you could always make an effort to stay social. I happened to have what I thought was the ideal living situation - there were 5 of us Americans in my residencia and about 30 Spaniards. I had friends in residencias where it was 50-50 and they didn't seem to learn much Spanish at all (or really integrate since there were always so many Americans to hang out with.) My sister lived in an apartment in Salamanca with two Spanish girls and had a great time. Another friend did the same in Spain and also had a fabulous time.

A homestay is only so good as the home/people you're staying in/with. I think with the dorm you are more likely to have a good time.

Some towns in Spain are overrun with foreign students (and many Americans). I know Salamanca is a university town but don't know the demographics re foreign students. Whatever you do, whatever the situation, really make an effort to integrate with Spaniards - don't just take the easy route and hang out with English speakers/Americans when you get tired/culture shock sets in. That's not to say that you shouldn't bond with the other students on your study abroad - some of my Spain friends are friends for life. Just don't miss out on the opportunity to immerse yourself in Spain.

I guess if I were to do it all over again, I'd do my specific residencia setup (mainly Spaniards) for the entire year, and make extra sure I spent a lot of time chatting with my Spanish residencia-mates so I didn't lose out on the benefits of the homestay. (Not that that was an option in Argentina, but hypothetically.)

My dorm was also co-ed. This was helpful because the men were MUCH friendlier to me than the women. (I'm female.) The women warmed up eventually, but only because the boys were already our friends. My American friends in all-female dorms didn't ever get as close with their residencia mates. I don't know if this is a Spanish thing (being standoffish to american females) or not, but it was definitely a phenomenon. And those of us with spanish boyfriends/girlfriends learned more spanish than everyone else. By far.

Spain's awesome - one of the best semesters of my life! Enjoy!
posted by semacd at 1:29 PM on March 25, 2009

HOST FAMILY!! Stay with a host family with children around your age, preferably with one or no other English speaking students. In my experience, the students who lived with families learned much more Spanish than those who lived in residencias. It is just too hard to force yourself to speak Spanish when you can speak English any time.

Your host-siblings will show you the ropes and introduce you to Spanish speaking people. It is difficult at first, when your spanish is rough, but it gets better very fast. It will be great!
posted by unreasonable at 2:10 PM on March 25, 2009

I did this at the University of Salamanca, although it was a long time ago. I also stayed with a host family in Mexico City for three months.

I would opt for the residencia, myself. I found the host family situation to be sub-optimal for a few reasons. First of all, there are a lot of variables you can't control that have a lot of impact on your quality of life when you're living with another family: location of the home (Salamanca is bigger than you think), age of the kids if any, and how happy particular members of the family are to have you there. I have done homestays in three countries, and every time, a someone was kicked out of a bedroom to make it mine (per the rules of the homestay program) for the duration. I honestly found the homestay situations to be a bit awkward, and I'm hardly an introvert.

I made excellent friends and had a much better social life living in residencias. I think that if you want to learn a lot of Spanish, you can do that living in a residencia even with other English-speaking students if you make it a priority.

Caveat: I suck at learning languages and I really, really struggled with immersion because I am a visual learner. I needed English speakers to write things down for me and re-explain them. I learned far more Spanish outside my formal programmes than in, but that's just me.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:48 PM on March 25, 2009

I think your choice is a good one. Definitely stay with a host family

I'm currently living with a host family for study abroad - it's hard sometimes, and you need to be flexible, but it's definitely a good choice. I think it's the best way to get better insight into the culture and an excellent way to learn the language. It's nice to have home-cooked meals and someone to look out for you. It really depends on your goals, but if you're studying abroad to challenge yourself and learn the culture go with the homestay. If you're studying abroad to party it's a different situation.

The people who are having bad experiences with it on my program seem like the really expected it to be just like home and can't handle the change. They're not complaining about theft or violence, they're complaining that they don't like the cooking or find their host family shallow or weird.

Switching to a Residencia sounds fine, though, if I were to do a second semester here I'd probably get my own appartment now that I'm more comfortable.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:35 AM on March 26, 2009

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