Why Choose a Homestay?
When choosing a place to live, international students may choose a homestay, dormitory, apartment or placement with family members or friends. While these options all have many benefits, homestay has the added benefit of full immersion into the American culture. Moreover, international students living in homestays not only live as members of an American family, but they also develop their abilities in all areas of language, including speaking, listening, and comprehension faster than students who do not live in homestays.
Finding a Homestay
To find a quality homestay program, start by contacting the school you plan to attend, since some schools have affiliate homestay programs or may know of one with a good reputation. You may also find a homestay program by searching the Internet using key phrases such as "Homestay in (the state you desire)."
Contacting a Homestay Provider
Most homestay companies have a website. Once on their website, you may find a link to send emails, as well as their telephone or facsimile number. If the homestay provider does not have a website, you may contact them by using an online telephone directory. It is recommended that you thoroughly review their website when possible and compile a list of questions you may have. When contacting a homestay provider, you may consider the following: application process, cancellation policy, lead time necessary to find a homestay, fees, and their ability to accommodate any special needs you may have (i.e. dietary restrictions, pet allergies, etc.) if this information is not already provided on the website.
Evaluating a Homestay Provider
In cases where a school recommends or has an affiliate homestay provider, it is highly likely that the homestay provider is reputable. When considering homestay providers that you find on the Internet, you should consider the following:
1. How are host families selected?
Homestay providers should screen all participating host families, provide training for their hosts and provide student evaluations at the end of their stay.
2. What is the policy for moving you to a different homestay if you are not satisfied?
Homestay providers should allow you to move to a different homestay if you are not satisfied with your homestay. Please keep in mind that distance is not usually a basis to request to be moved.
3. How timely was the provider in responding to your questions?
Reputable homestay providers should respond to your questions and inquiries within 24 hours during the business week (Monday – Friday). Most providers are closed on the weekends and will not likely respond to your questions until Monday.
4. Does the homestay provider offer ongoing support during your entire stay?
Homestay providers should provide ongoing support during your stay as well have a 24-hour telephone for emergencies.
5. How many years has the homestay provider been in business?
Homestay providers with at least five years of operating not only have developed a reputation, but are also experienced with handling the many facets of homestays.
Homestay can be a very rewarding experience that provides benefits that last a lifetime. To maximize your experience, you must keep an open mind and be willing to experience many new things. You will find that American families are similar as well as very different from your family at home. All homestays require some adjustment, as you are living in a different country with many new experiences. Undoubtedly, homestays provide many benefits that add to your educational experience in America. These benefits include, but are not limited to, the ability to:
- practice your English language skills with a native speaker
- learn about the American culture "as an insider"
- enjoy meals with your host family and share your daily experiences
- participate in various family activities and traditions
- live in a safe home environment with people who genuinely care about your well-being
Article provided by Andrea Grant, President of Just Like Home in the Washington, DC metro area