Hi I'm Dana Morano, born and raised in Chicago and I attend the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). This is my first time in Europe and writing a blog. So let's get to it.
Needless to say I was very excited when I arrived in Alicante about 2 months ago. The weather was amazing (we were at the beach everyday) and the city was an adventure about to be unravelled. We stayed the first weekend in a sweet hotel and awkwardly mingled amongst the people who are now my cloest friends. We toured the city and were given advice about living in Alicante for the next four months and soon enough it was Sunday and we were shipped off to our living situations.
To my surprise most people chose to live with a homestay family while only five of us moved into the dorms. I chose the dorms because I have never went away to school and I figured that living in the dorms was the smarter decision. (Since most students do their first time away from home.) As all things do, it had it's pros and cons, and about a month and a half later I chose to move into a homestay family.
I pictured the dorms here as similar to the ones I had visited in the States. One room crammed with two beds, and two desks with barely enough room to breathe. The dorms are nice, speacious, and very private. You have your own room and bathroom (which was spacious as well), and a maid comes to clean your room once a week. The common area you share with your roommate is small, there is a sink, a small refridgerator (although my room never had one for some reason!) and a microwave. I never used them though. A pro was that my roommate was absolutely awesome! She was from France and spoke spanish fluently and was always more than willing to help me with my homework and everyday conversation skills. A con was that our schedules conflicted and I usually only saw her at mealtime when I was with mostly American students speaking english. Meals- huge con. The food, to put it gently, was unedible, and not to mention the rude workers responses when I would attempt to speak to them in spanish. (Although we did make friends with two of them!) As more time passed, I realized the other students in my class were understanding and speaking more english than me. During the first weekend here, we were told if we were staying in the villa (what they call the dorms) that we should reach out to the other students and try to speak spanish with them. At the time, it sounded easy, I'm a pretty outgoing person and don't have that much trouble talking with strangers so I didn't think much of it. How wrong I was. I grew much too nervous to attempt to speak my broken spanish to a bunch of college students who had been friends for quite some time. So I avoided it, and did not really put much effort into meeting the spanish students in the villa. The did hold a week's worth of "hazing" activities to get to know new students, but I'm not in a sorority and those really aren't my type of things to do. After debating for a week or two I decided to move into a homestay. Side note: The dorms are an unconvient 25 minute bus ride (not mention waiting for it) from Alicante.
I now live in the city. The apartment I moved into is in Plaza de Toros and I live with mi madre (an older woman who is AMAZING!). The firstbig difference for me was the food. For the first time in six weeks I finished a meal. The second was that my english became useless. If I needed something or just wanted to chat I was forced to use my spanish. Then there were the pros living at home per se, mi madre does my laundry and makes my bed and makes me bocadillos (a delicious sandwich) for lunch at school. I lucked out and have a balcony off my room from which I can see the el castillo de Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara castle).
In either living situation, it is what YOU make of it. The dorms were not a right fit for me. I was lonely and felt disconnected, but I went into it with a positive attitude and it didn't work out. I went into living in a homestay with a positive attitude and it did. Part of the reason living in the home was better choice for me because I my spanish was not up to par and I felt more comfortable learning in a less intimidating environment since it is only mi madre y yo.