Home Away from Home (But Actually)

Hannah Drake about to depart on her semester abroad in Grenada, Spain.

Hannah Drake about to depart on her semester abroad in Granada, Spain.

Hannah Drake is a family-oriented girl. She loves spending time with her younger sister and her parents. And since she is an English major, she often finds herself writing stories with main characters closely resembling her loved ones.

But Drake, who is spending the semester in Granada, Spain, has a new set of family members to write about: Her host family.

Now, sure, living with a host family isn’t for everyone. Some people find it scary.

What if they’re crazy? What if I can’t communicate with them well enough? What if they don’t like me? What if…what if…what if…

But for Drake–who embraces the literary inspiration–those “what ifs” are the draw.

And Beatriz and Javier (her host parents) have welcomed Drake into their home with open arms from the moment she arrived in Spain. A seamless embrace, really.

Drake is the couple’s third guest, and she recalls her first moments in the Spanish home as heartwarming and comfortable.

“The first thing I did when I got to Spain was eat and unpack,” Drake said. “My host mom was a big part of both activities, and I was so overwhelmed and excited and terrified that I couldn’t do anything but nod when she spoke.”

Drake sat in the small, bright home as Beatriz made her soup and croquetas (“little nuggets filled with ham and cheese and covered in buttery bread crumbs”).

“And there was a loaf of fresh bread on the cutting board,” Drake said.

Now doesn’t that sound warm and inviting?

Even still, Drake must admit she found it all a little hard to swallow, being her first night and all. It was a grand gesture she didn’t quite know how to accept.

“The jet lag and the anxiety and the excitement were just a little bit too much, but I was [still] grateful,” Drake said.

Hannah and one of her Spanish

Hannah and one of her Spanish “sisters” named Ana, 10.

Since then, it is clear Drake has started fostering a soon-to-be-wonderful relationship with her family away from home. She has learned quite a bit about Beatriz and Javier’s two daughters, whom she calls her sisters.

“Beatriz (named after her mother, of course) is 14 and Ana is 10,” Drake said. “Beatriz has braces and a huge smile, and Ana has warm brown eyes and loves to sing, dance, and play piano.”

The family has also done their part in introducing Drake to their home city of Granada.

“[On my first day] my host dad took me on a walk with my youngest host sister,” Drake said. “She wore roller blades and held my hand and tried her best to remember English words when I couldn’t figure out the Spanish ones.”

Javier pointed out bars and some of Granada’s hotspots, but being only her first day at the time, Drake said her nerves took over. She found it hard to remember everything he pointed out. But nowadays, with a couple of weeks under her belt and the continued help of her new family, she is getting to know the area.

“I’m so glad I chose Granada.” Drake said, adding that she likes how small it feels for a city. “The world-famous Alhambra palace is surrounded by a green valley and blue sky and purple mountains–the Sierra Nevadas–in the distance. Streets are narrow and people walk slow and there’s fresh bread and olive oil with every meal.”

And meals happen to be one of Drakes most cherished events–not due to the constant bread and olive oil, though. But instead, because of the time she can spend with her host family.

“Their kitchen is small and our elbows all touch when we’re eating dinner,” Drake said. “But that’s one of my favorite parts of the day!

During these elbow-touching meals, Javier does his best to speak English, Drake said, taking any chance he can to use his favorite words: “teenager” (which he pronounces as “teenydor”) and “perfect” (which to him sounds like “pehrfek”). And Drake’s host mom sets out the food for the family.

“[She] is a beautiful, elegant, welcoming Spanish woman with dark hair and tiny smile wrinkles around her eyes,” Drake said.

This elegant woman has made Drake feel comfortable and welcome–no small feat for Drake, who describes herself as a “study abroad rookie,” and who is very close to (and undoubtedly missing) her own mother back in New Hampshire.

It is early in the trip, and Drake’s anxiety still lingers each morning, but her host family is certainly helping her settle the nerves.

“As exciting as everything here is, it can get overwhelming sometimes,” Drake said. “And when it does, I give myself some advice: live in the moment. Feel what you’re feeling right now – it won’t last forever. Write it down. Follow your gut. Feel the fear, and do it anyways.”

And most of all, keep getting to know that generous, lovely host family. They’ll be the main characters in your next big story, after all!


Jacqueline Sullivan– Spring 2016, COLA study abroad alumna                                                             

Nick D– Spring 2016, COLA study abroad alumna

Rachel V– Spring 2016, COLA study abroad alumna



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