When choosing between different study abroad programs and locations, one of the biggest questions you must ask yourself is, “where will I live?” As students, often times we get caught up in the country we are visiting and focus on aspects such as historical monuments and cuisine. While these are important factors to your study abroad experience, it is also crucial to think about how you are going to immerse yourself in a culture different from your own in such a short amount of time. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is to live with a host family, and choose a homestay program.
A homestay is staying with a “host family” A host family, is a group of individuals, more than likely related to one another, who are natives to the host country. Host families can reside in the city, suburbs or even in rural communities. It is common for the host family to speak little to no English, which can help you improve fluency in the language of choice. Living with a host family allows you to go above and beyond traditional study abroad experiences. For example, eventually you will adopt the routines of the family members such as waking up at certain times, visiting the supermarket for fresh produce, or even attending church.
Despite your title as a guest, your host family will ensure you feel included and welcomed at every moment during your stay. Your family may even introduce you to relatives and family members as their son or daughter. And let’s not forget about the amazing food you will try! Since most host families are natives to the country, they will often cook traditional dishes for you that will send your taste buds on an adventure. Host families go beyond your summer experience, they become life long friends. I loved my experience with my host family and continue to keep in contact with them to this day.
Choosing to live with strangers can be a little scary at first. You may ask yourself questions such as, “What if they don’t like me? What if I can’t speak the language? Will it be safe?” You do not have to worry about any of these questions. Supervisors of your program of choice personally interview and approve of each host family months in advance of your arrival. The supervisors would never put you in a situation where your safety is at risk. No quality study abroad program would ever put you in a Homestay situation alone, and they take great care in pairing you with the best matched roommate possible. Moreover, host families choose to take in students and are always excited to have new additions to the family for the summer.
So, when choosing a study abroad program, be sure to ask yourself what you hope to get out of your experience. If language and cultural immersion is your top priority, then living with a host family is the way to go!