I DID 3 LANGUAGE EXCHANGES AND…
I’m a lucky person, I have done a lot of language exchanges during my whole life.
In my family, learning languages is so important and, since my sister and me were younger, our parents had given us the opportunity to go to other countries and do different exchanges.
When I was under-age, with 16 and 17 years old, I did two language exchanges in England, specifically in Brighton.
I did both exchanges with the classic intermediary, an agency. First year I was in a student’s residence. I spent there three amazing weeks, I have very good memories about the experience and I met many people, some of them are still friends. The main problem was that the agency placed all the Spanish students in the same residence and the contact with English people was limited to few hours a day during the classes. The result was that instead of improving my English I went to Brighton on “vacation” and I learned much less English than both, my parents and I were expecting.
The following year, we didn’t want to make the same mistake, these language exchanges are extremely expensive and pose a great sacrifice for a family. This time we decided to choose an exchange with a native family. By this way, I could spend more time surrounded by English people and this issue would force me to learn English.
On paper, this experience should have been much more useful for me to improve my English, but it was even worse. The family that hosted me had no real intention to host a student.
These agencies pay large amounts of money to families to host students and some of them only perform language exchange for economic reasons but with no real interest in exchanging their language and offer a “family” stay.
I had to share a room with 3 more students, the family worked long hours and there were days that we didn’t meet, so the coexistence was practically nil. Although I mentioned this situation to the agency, I could not change the family because I was coming back to Spain in few days.
To summarize, my language exchange experience with traditional agencies has been unsatisfactory.
A few years later, and as an adult, studying my career, I had the chance to make another language exchange, this time by the ERASMUS program.
My main goal was to learn English, but unfortunately my university had no agreement with universities in the United Kingdom or Ireland, so I had to find another destination if I wanted to learn the language.
And surprisingly, I chose Italy, a university near Milan, the reason? most of the lessons were taught in English and the other in Italian, so it was an amazing opportunity to learn not only a language, but two.
Finding a home in a foreign country is always difficult, you do not know the country or even the language and you feel pressed because you have to find accommodation before school starts. I was lucky to meet two Spaniards and shared a house on the outskirts of the city with them. Cohabitation was very good but, although we were learning so much English and Italian during lessons, it was not a real language immersion, why? because when we were at home, we talked in Spanish among us.
Over the months we start a friendship with our neighbour, an elderly Italian lady who lived alone. She helped us with the Italian, invited us to eat, he taught us how to prepare the real Italian food (no, the spaghetti carbonara haven’t got cream), she recommended us different places to visit … this friendship changed totally my stay abroad. Sharing moments with someone who wanted to help and teach selflessly is incredible, that’s a real immersion.
Few months ago, I discovered MyHOSTpitality.com, How different would have been my exchanges if this have existed before! I could have found families who truly wished to exchange, teach their language and culture, do trips around the country, etc. Furthermore, this exchange would have been much cheaper because it avoids intermediaries which, at the end, don’t add value because they focus more on getting a high volume of children instead of giving a great exchange experience.
As I don’t want to stop traveling and I want to improve my English or learn Portuguese, this year I will make another exchange and clearly will do it with MyHOSTpitality.com