When Host Family Feels Like Real Family


At the end of March, my mom and sister came to visit- it is still so surreal they were here, in Spain! Mitzy and I met them in Barcelona for the weekend- such a fun couple days admiring Gaudi designs from inside the magnificent Sagrada Familia and overlooking the city from Parc Guell. We wandered around the Gothic district, watched the Madrid-Barcelona game in a pub at night and introduced my mom and Hannah to sangria and churros con chocolate. We all returned to Sevilla Monday morning and took a cab from the airport into their hotel in the city center. I think it was that drive that made me really realize how enchanting Sevilla is- I usually just walk everywhere so never really see the city in a car. It was raining a tad, and as we drove through the winding streets of El Centro, the older district of Sevilla, it really felt like something out of a movie set. Getting to show them the cathedral and La Giralda bell tower, the Alcazár palace, Plaza de España, the riverside view of the colorful buildings of Triana was amazing. I took them to the café Mascarpone where I go each morning, the shopping district in El Centro’s alleyways, and lively little tapas places (where we tried eggplant with a sugar and honey sauce, solomillo al whiskey, and patatas bravas- some of my new favorites!).



After the city tour, my house mom invited them over for coffee and tortilla española. She even brought us into her kitchen and taught them how to make it! (My mom liked it so much that she has been cooking it ever since getting home to California.)

That morning I had woken up to randomly find two flamenco dresses in my closet, but I just thought maybe Isabel was storing them there because Ferria is approaching. After we ate, she said she had a “surprise” for us- and then told me and Hannah to dress up in them! Isabel’s aunt was with us too, and they had the best time and putting the flowers in our hair and fixing us up with earrings and necklaces. As we took pictures with the dresses, Isabel and her aunt danced around the living room, showing us “Sevillanas,” a specific type of flamenco done in the celebrations of Ferria. I’m thankful that somehow I’ve grasped enough Spanish that I was able to translate for my mom and sister and that they got to have a little taste of the precious moments I’ve had with Isabel everyday.











I think one of the hardest things about leaving will be saying goodbye to Isabel. This woman has made me feel more at home in Sevilla than I ever could have thought. I’ve always heard that host moms can be up in the air and that you never really know who you are going to get. However, I quickly learned coming here that the people in Sevilla are just so wonderful. I’ve rarely heard about a host mom that someone hasn’t loved. I realized that with Isabel, it wasn’t just about sharing a meal together because we had to, but because we all truly enjoyed each other’s company. She’s the kind of person that wakes up with us at 4 am to make us coffee and waves goodbye to us through the window as we leave for an early flight. She spoon fed us cough medicine when we were sick, always made sure we had clean laundry, taught us her kitchen secrets, and told us so much about her family that I feel like I’m a part of it. When I got the email at the dinner table that I was accepted to the IJM internship, I got to experience literally being at a loss for words to express to her in Spanish how happy and excited I was, but she celebrated me nonetheless. She’ll constantly show us pictures that past students have sent her of their weddings, and I’m looking forward to continuing to write to her and keep in touch. Her energy and passion for life is infectious- literally everyone in the community of Triana adores her. We’ll always be watching TV and she’ll say of an actor or someone famous, “I know them! They grew up in Triana!” Apparently this neighborhood breeds some high-quality people.


(Also in the words of Isabel, I can’t forget “La Pami.” This dog is one of the cutest I’ve ever seen. She’s 16 years old and joins us for every meal. Her and Isabel are the best pals and they do everything together. An example of Isabel’s quality sense of humor- Pami loves eating scraps of our dinner, but the one human food she doesn’t like is coffee. Isabel laughs in the morning as we’re eating breakfast and she’ll say “look, look!” and hold up the coffee cup to Pami’s nose as the dog scurries away. The funniest thing!)

My time here has clearly been an amazing adventure so far, and I know there is still so much more in store! It will be no easy thing leaving Sevilla, but I am soaking up every second of it until then.

Written by Sarah Singh

img_20301Sarah is a Political Economy Major at UC Berkeley, with a concentration in Natural Resource Markets in Developing Countries. She was excited to study abroad in Sevilla, Spain to become more comfortable using Spanish and to learn about the culture and religions of Sevilla while living in it. She has lived in the Bay Area her whole life and was beyond grateful to live in another part of the world for a semester.

Want your own host family to share meals and stories and adventures with? Check out all of our amazing programs for studies and missions abroad!



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