Why do homestaying?
If the opportunity to eat delicious, authentic, home cooked (and might add plentiful) foods or the chance to make remarkable relationships with incredible locals wasn't enough, living with host families while volunteering abroad is bound to take your entire international experience up a level.
From that first meeting, when your new little brother could not be more shy, to your teary good bye (and all of those early morning wake ups to maximize play time with him since), homestaying is your ticket to a new world.
Here, similarities outweigh differences, silence isn't awkward, and communication barriers reign without defeating your sense of purpose. Each day is a new adventure, a new peak into life in a foreign country, and new understanding of what it means to be a local in the country that you're volunteering abroad in. A homestay abroad is an adventure within an adventure.
Homestay programs are far from easy, and they can certainly be uncomfortable, but that's the beauty of it. Cultivating these relationships takes work, but you'll be better for it. You'll walk away from your time abroad a little humbler, a little more compassionate, and, let's face it — a little rounder (#volunteerabroad15).
So what are the benefits of homestay programs? We're glad you asked. Scroll south to learn what's to be gained from living with host families.
1. Partake in Family Traditions
Experience birthdays, holidays, night time routines, and general interactions in families. Learn the way they communicate with one another, greet each other, share meals, or where they sleep in the house. All of these things vary by culture, but may be missed in general societal settings alone. Living in a local home when volunteering abroad gives endless opportunities to impeccably explore familial traditions of the nation.
2. You Can Ask Cultural Questions
Curious how to get from point A to point B? Where to sit and not sit? Or what clothing is appropriate for a particular setting? Living with a host family gives you the ability to ask a local while avoiding the embarrassment of asking. Not only do host families have experience in answering the questions of international volunteers, if they have hosted guests previously, they also provide a warm, loving environment for asking important questions you may not feel comfortable asking anyone else.
3. So Many Chances to Improve Your Language Learning
Homestaying provides safe learning environments to try out new words or practice the local language. Get necessary phrases translated by your host father, practice writing key words with your host sister, and try out communicating in the new language with toddlers or young children in the comfort of your new home. They usually won’t be afraid to correct you, will always support you in trying to expand your abilities, and you may bond through the language mishaps as well. Sometimes host families don’t speak your language fluently, providing and encouraging even more opportunities to improve language skills.
4. You Really Get to Live Like a Local
Learn what locals like to do, where they like to go, when they like to do particular tasks or activities throughout the day, and how they like to do them. While living living in a homestay during your volunteer program abroad, take time to learn how to cook your favorite dish, try out a native game, watch a local TV show, or enjoy a pastime. Wake up at dawn if that is what the locals do, go to sleep at five o’clock if that’s what locals do, take a nap at noon everyday if that’s what most locals do. Participate in the typical weekend or evening activities right along with your host family to fully live life like a local.
5. You'll Gain a New Family
Find a home away from home through staying in a homestay, host families can become one of the biggest reasons to visit again and again. Living in a family environment can help foreigners feel at home in a foreign land and especially help combat any feelings of homesickness. It also gives visitors the chance to gain siblings, aunts, or uncles they may have never had the chance to have.
6. Enjoy Locally Made, Traditional Foods
Inevitably anyone volunteering abroad will eventually taste some dishes they have never heard of, but finding a true home cooked meal on a daily basis is not frequently possible when traveling. Homestays typically cook meals for their guests in the traditional ways of the country, giving visitors the chance to try a variety of local cuisines and maybe even learn the exact complex makeup of each dish. Many people worry about trying new foods in foreign countries, fearing stomach illnesses from poor quality or undercooked foods, but living with a homestay eliminates those worries and lets visitors fully indulge in the traditional tastes of the country.
7. Observe Cultural Practices Within the Home
Living in host families' accommodations allow guests to learn about many cultural practices through simple observation. They can observe interactions between different generations, learn what unique body language implies, and see how certain phrases or actions are used and accepted. A homestay provides the opportunity to gather valuable cultural information regarding who cleans, who cooks, who makes the money, who is lazy, who never sits down, who drinks, and who eats. The types of practices that may not be easily formed into a question, but through observation can be coherently learned.
One final tip on homestays abroad
A homestay abroad is not the only way to have a well-rounded, whole-hearted, and culturally immersive international experience, but it might be one of our favorites. After all, your best souvenir won't be that magnet, that scarf, OR your photos. It'll be the relationships you make, the friendships and wisdom you carry with you, and the inevitable snail mail you'll send (and receive) from your family on the other side of the world.
Living with a host family by doing a homestay program is a can't miss experience. So, what are you waiting for?