By Stacey Leonard
Each year, thousands of U.S. families open their homes and hearts to student visitors from all over the world. In a homestay, students can observe, learn and experience a new lifestyle and culture, while practicing English skills in a home environment.
Successful homestay experiences can help to ease homesickness. Often students feel that they have found a second family who loves and cares for them. This experience can also help students make a smooth transition into an American university or enable them to reach a future career goal.
DAILY LIVING EXPERIENCE
Hosts involve their student guests in day-to-day family activities and also include them in social gatherings such as summertime barbecues, holiday celebrations, or trips to local attractions.
Homestay hosts will reflect the diversity of the region in which they live. They may be single parents, retired couples, widows, or families with young children. They will come from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. What they will have in common is a desire to share their homes and their time with international students.
Usually, international visitors enjoy staying with hosts who have family members of similar ages or with similar interests. The homestay coordinator will consider a student’s needs, interests and requests before matching the student with a host.
Colleges and homestay organizations can arrange short-term, semester or year-long stays.
ADJUSTING TO THE HOUSEHOLD
Living in a homestay will always require an adjustment period. There may be simple house rules or guidelines about Internet usage, laundry, television viewing, meal times, cleanliness, and money matters.
Universities that offer homestays programs set certain standards for hosts. For example, at the University of Delaware, all hosts living more than 1 mile from campus must provide students with transportation to and from campus every weekday. Hosts must also provide each student with a private, furnished room and access to a shared or private bathroom.
The homestay coordinators carefully screen host applicants to make sure they have a passion for hospitality and an interest in other cultures. Coordinators will also interview and visit applicants to determine the suitability of the living space and meet the family members. Regular meetings, phone calls, and emails keep the hosts up to date in order to maintain high standards of operation within the homestays.
Unfortunately, not all homestay matches are perfect. If problems that cannot be resolved arise, the homestay coordinator will work closely with the student to ensure that the next homestay will be a better match.
BENEFITTING FROM YOUR HOMESTAY
If you choose to live in a homestay, your hosts will be interested in your country, family, and traditions. Be sure to bring photographs of your town, school, friends and family. If you wish, you may also bring small gifts that are typical of your country.
Homestays provide students with a well-rounded education and great social skills. These attributes will put you on the top of the list for employment when you return to your home country! If you are willing to learn and have an attitude of openness and flexibility, you will have one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences living in the USA.