Who: After much back and forth about what kind of housing I should choose, I can now say that I made the right decision in doing a homestay. I live in a modest sized apartment in the Nervion neighborhood with a 68 year old madre and her 39 year old daughter and 30 year old son-in-law (here, it is normal for children to live with their parents for a long time). My biggest trepidation in choosing a homestay was the fear of losing my independence, but that has not been the case at all. I am free to come and go as much as I want, and to my surprise, it is completely normal for kids my age to come back at 4am or 6am from the discotecas… I often feel more judged for coming back early on a weekend night than for staying out that late! I eat all of my meals with the family, and since I speak English with most of my friends in the program, this is a great chance to practice Spanish and learn more about each other’s cultures. Though frustrating at times because my madre speaks so quickly, I like that she doesn’t know any English because it forces me to use my language skills more. The son-in-law often tries to practice his English at the dinner table with me, but my madre yells at him that I won’t learn Spanish that way.
My first two weeks here have been an absolute whirlwind of emotions and experiences. Before coming to Copenhagen, to be honest, I hadn’t thought of how different the culture was going to be. Because I knew nearly everyone here speaks English (completely fluently at that), I automatically presumed that the culture couldn’t be that different. Ignorant, I know, but that was my thought process. After having arrived, I can say that boy was I mistaken. While many things are similar, the Danish way of doing things is much different. Here are a few things I’ve noticed.
My first week is Barcelona was amazing but exhausting! I fell in love with the city at first sight, with its beautiful architecture, wide streets, and location right on the Mediterranean. However, I had no idea how tiring it would be finding an apartment, navigating the metro system, and speaking Spanish. I cannot imagine trying to navigate Barcelona without any Spanish background, because of all the Spanish (not to mention Catalan) spoken and written on street signs, restaurant menus, etc. I have spoken more Spanish this first week than I anticipated, mainly because I (naively) thought English would be spoken here due to the abundance of exchange students. But obviously Spanish would be spoken in Spain, so I need to step out of the safety net of English and instead embrace the Spanish language.
I’ve been at HEC Paris for a little over a week now and I already feel at home here. HEC is a small campus school—an uncommon phenomenon in Europe! In fact, a lot of students come to study here for the campus experience, something we definitely take for granted in the US. About one-fifth of the school is comprised of international students, with around eighty exchange students each semester. This large international population has made it very easy to settle in here. I’ve made friends from all over the globe, as everyone is outgoing and eager to make friends.