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Student Reflection

I will never forget the moment our group pulled in to the parking lot in my host community, when I stepped off the bus to the smiling faces of my host family, and so awkwardly went in for the hug while dos besos were smushed on my face. Little did I know that just a few weeks later I would give anything to experience that ever-awkward hug just one more time.

The homestay experience with LITA is so much more than just its name. It is learning about Spanish, learning about a different culture, learning how to live with others, and learning about yourself. It is not just about living with the family you are paired with; it is about becoming a part of that family. It is about realizing that your family is not limited to your host siblings, but includes the other LITA members, the other host families, and the town itself.

My host community is a town that showed me that to devote myself to learning, it is necessary to go off the beaten path, to discover just how big small can be. Because of my pueblo’s rural location and size, I was able to become not just a visitor, but a functioning member of the community. The proximity of everything – from el supermercado to el parque to la piscina– allowed for me to quickly become acclimated to the distinct Spanish lifestyle, and by the time the three weeks were up, had allowed for me to befriend almost every kid in town.

Perhaps one of the most memorable experiences of the homestay was my internship, where I was able to work alongside two amazing sisters in their family-run winery and learn first-hand about the process of winemaking and business management. From giving tours of the bodega, to bottling and labeling, the winery became a second home for me. Yet more than just the internship placement itself, it was the people who made it so special. I will never forget when I was invited back to the owners’ family home for paella, and we spent hours just talking with each other about anything that crossed our minds. I was able to develop such a close relationship with this family that it warranted countless “last visits” at the end of the three-week homestay and internship, knowing full too well none of us wanted it to be the last one.

It was with LITA that I was afforded this opportunity to access those truly wonderful facets of a language immersion program. It was the focus on a rural town that opened me up to relationships I will carry with me forever. It was my internship at the bodega that showed me just how beautiful a family relationship can be. It was my own incredible host family that so appropriately facilitated my growth as a student and as a member of the community. It was my time hanging out with the teens of my town that showed me just how similar different can be. It was taking a siesta at 4pm, and eating dinner at 10:30pm that challenged me to not only accept but also embrace change in a manner completely “foreign” by definition. It was the walk down to la piscina, the family trip to la panadería, and the oddly warm leche in the mornings that will stay with me forever.

It was in the homestay that I found something so incredible, so indescribable, that I find myself day-by-day, moment-by-moment, yearning for that ever-so-awkward smushing of dos besos. My host community is not only a place that I called home when I was there with LITA, but also one that I will continue to call home for the rest of my life.

Andrew Roth, Student, 2016

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