My host family is a bit unique in that it’s not a traditional nuclear family. Rather, I live with a divorced mother of two, her daughter, her daughter’s boyfriend, and their four dogs. There’s also a girl from Scranton doing a homestay in the same house. I’m the only person from OU who’s living with a host family instead of at the apartments, and I don’t regret that decision. I get two meals a day and my laundry done for me, there’s a bakery five minutes from my house, and I can practice my Spanish every day, plus it’s a few hundred dollars cheaper than living in the apartments.
My host mom is a real character. She owns the house next door and rents it out to around ten students from various Latin American countries, but she says she prefers students on homestay. According to her, it’s less awkward to pay the money through an intermediary, and she considers the students part of her family.
I’ve certainly been treated like a member of the family while I’ve been here. Olivia, my host mother, has taken me on half a dozen trips to the center of Puebla, once while her son was visiting from Tulum. When my mother came to visit me, Olivia showed her around the downtown while I was in class. She’s given me restaurant recommendations, driven me around, and overall been an invaluable resource about Puebla. I highly recommend living with a host family if you get the option.
“Ladies and gentlemen, damas y caballeros, welcome to the ground.” That’s how the pilot of my plane to Mexico announced our arrival in Puebla, after a rather abrupt drop at the end of a three-hour flight in the smallest jet I’ve ever been on. It was so small that, even though American Airlines normally allows two carry-ons, everyone had to check their second carry-on. If you’re planning on flying into Puebla, make sure your smaller carry-on has all your valuables: if you have to check your laptop, it’ll be returned to you in several pieces.
We met all of our professors, our fellow students, and our student coordinator at the airport. While the last of our cohort made their way through customs, we exchanged the first of our money, and learned a trick for converting pesos to dollars. The exchange rate is currently about 19 or 20 pesos to the dollar, so you take the price in pesos, drop a zero, and divide the result in half.
My first impression of Mexico was of the giant van that took us on the forty-minute drive from the airport, in Huejotzingo, to Puebla proper. (Puebla is both a city and a state, somewhat like New York.) Eight people and all their baggage were crammed together in the van, but it was a good way to start to chat with people.
We finally arrived at the student apartments, where everyone else was living and my host mother waited to pick me up. I’m the only student this semester who’s staying with a host family rather than in the apartments. I decided on a host family because it would be easier to practice my Spanish when Spanish was my only option. Plus, it’s several hundred dollars cheaper than the apartments, and your host family cooks you breakfast and dinner every day of the week. I’m always budget conscious and never have time to cook, so it was a no-brainer for me.