If you get embarrassed of your parents in public or feel that you’re ready to move out of the house, a homestay will be a great remedy (without creating dramatic stand-offs or running away from home). When you come back, your Dad’s jokes and your Mom’s “mom-jeans” will seem mild compared to the quirky family traits you witnessed abroad, and you’ll gain enough maturity to laugh politely at them. That’s not to mention the independence, global perspective, cultural knowledge, language skills, and really spiffy transcript you will have gained, too. Ready to experience hospitality like never before in a homestay abroad?
Why Live in a Homestay Abroad
If you are considering a high school program abroad, make the most of your educational experience by living with a homestay family. Not only will you have someone to help you make the transition into a foreign country, but you will see the genuine beauty of the country and people, which will make the world seem much more inviting.
First, consider the depth of cultural immersion you will dive into. You’ll meet locals, taste home-cooked meals, and have an authentic experience of your new home country; tag along to exclusive events, automatically belong to a social circle, and have a personalized tour guide to all of the best off-the-radar nooks. From a practical stand point, there are minimal costs. Normally, staying with host families is much cheaper than fending for yourself in your own apartment, especially if the arrangement includes meals, laundry facilities, weekly cleaning, and potential weekend excursions.
If your goal is to learn a new language, staying in a homestay will get you from hello to hola in less time that it would take you to flip through that Spanish textbook. While classes and language schools provide great foundations, the best way to learn a language is to practice, practicar, pratiquer. You’ll adapt the intonation, learn local expressions, and have very patient teachers available around the clock in your homestay abroad. Plus, what better way to bond with your homestay family than by accidentally remarking that their newborn is la poubelle or by mining out the expression for curfew?
Coming back from a homestay abroad, you will be open to different perspectives, learn new practical skills, and have experience adjusting to foreign living situations. Not only will you be appreciate your room back home, but you will have no problem moving out for good and trying to settle down on that college campus. After partaking in weekend gardening sessions and picking up local recipes with your host mom, moving into a dorm and figuring out the setting on the laundry machine will not come with the same degree of homesickness afflicting your roomies.
Homestay programs are available all over the world; so, how do you pick your next family? Most of it will be left to luck and the consideration of your program provider, but there are also some general cultural traits to keep in mind when spinning that globe around and daydreaming about your upcoming scholastic adventure.
If you are a more independent type, try to stick with more progressive countries that have similar mindsets. Developed, northern countries, such as Sweden, Germany, and Denmark, are used to a higher degree of personal independence, and will understand your desire for some alone time and after-school involvement with social issue groups. You will still receive delicious meals (get ready for meatballs and mashed potatoes) and have someone to converse with, without the morning shower of kisses and extended family fiestas every weekend.
If you are used to big families, long dinners, and frequent text messages, look at warmer, more traditional countries, such as Spain, Greece, or Italy. In these countries, the concept of family is emphasized, so you will have plenty of opportunities to spend endless afternoons learning top-secret recipes passed down through generations, playing hide-and-seek with two dozen cousins, and have no shortage of aunts and uncles to take you to a sunny beach on the weekend.
If you would like to leap off the bandwagon and impress your classmates with stories of lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!), living with a homestay can be a great introduction to a foreign land that you might not want to tackle on your own. Take comfort in the fact that your Host Dad will explain the trick behind chopsticks in Japan, your Host Uncle will point out the difference between puffins and penguins in South Africa, and your Host Sis will teach you the differences between elephant tusks and molars in India.
Regardless of where you end up finding a homestay abroad, cultural specifics are different and benefits are many. Keep an open mind as this two-way adaptation process takes place, and you will find a family that will offer a helping hand, a grammatical correction, and a big hug when the need arises.
Homestay Programs Abroad
The nature of your homestay program will, for the most part, be dependent on your high school program, which can range from summer sessions to semester-long adventures or entire academic years abroad. Sign up for the one that you have time for and can afford; there are benefits to an autumn abroad or a summer splash, and it all depends on your responsibilities and involvements back home.
Once you decide on a high school program type and location, it’ll be time to check the “homestay” option on the submission form. Depending on the nature of your high school program provider, you will be asked some personal questions in an attempt to match you best with your future family: diet restrictions, urban or rural preferences, family specifications, extra information future hosts should be aware of (if you have diabetes, are allergic to dogs, or turn into a zombie every full moon, mention this here).
Note that while you will not be able to specifically pick your host family, and that you might end up in a completely different arrangement than you imagined (city apartment in Milan instead of villa with a mini vineyard?), the lifestyle of your host family will, to some extent, reflect the culture of the country. Whether breakfast is a family affair or a grab-on-the go activity will depend on which part of the world you’re traveling to.
No two homestay experiences will be the same. Embrace the arrangement, make the most of the situation, take it as a learning experience, and remember that this temporary family will not be around forever.
Benefits & Challenges
If you are a rebel (or just like to have your own space), a host family might seem like a challenge, with house rules and the burden of being a “guest.” However, this opportunity will also stretch you to be flexible, and to adapt to more than just a new school system. Some traditions might not make sense, and you might find yourself with less alone time than you did back home, but the rewards of an authentic experience are many. In addition, you will learn to stand up for yourself and (respectfully) communicate if there is something that isn’t going right; these are family bonding moments in disguise!
Often, homestay arrangements will include a new brother or sister as well, who, more than likely, will also be your classmate. And, deep under that teenage bravado, who doesn’t want a BFF on their first day of class, to show them the lay of the land, point out the good janitors from the bad, and offer you a seat at their table at lunch? These are also great candidates for language exchange… teach them some English and learn more about Russian noun endings than you ever wanted to know.
If you are considering study abroad, maximize the experience with education that goes beyond the classroom and a new family that will show you the generosity and genuineness of the world. Have the time of your life as you snuggle into a new home-away-from-home, sweet, home-away-from-home.