Explore better while studying abroad: Home stay for international students

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host familyLeaving your home country for studying abroad is not an easy thing to do. It’s a big change, which requires courage and self-belief. You are leaving friends, family and lifestyle behind in order to dive, completely alone, into something unknown. It’s a scary thought.
Sure… you’ve done your research. You know where are you going and pretty much what to expect, but how well can you know about a place, before actually going there.
You don’t know what to expect from the people, their customs and traditions. Even the day to day social interactions are convoluted and obscure for a foreigner.

So how could you avoid this distress and make the most of your stay, while, in the same time, integrate yourself and avoid the awkwardness and unfamiliarities of being a new person on a new place?

One of the best options for you to fully immerse in the local culture is to stay with a local family.

Here we will try to point out the PROs and CONs of home stay for international students, so you could gain some perspective on what it’s like.



For people on a budget 

This is maybe the cheapest option for you, when living in another country.
Including the fact that you will pay less rent for your room, the host family will also prepare you meals, take care of the utilities and some of domestic expenses (which yet cheap, will accumulate over time). It’s also possible that they will arrange a travel card for you and you will be relieved from chores.
Taking all this under account, not worrying about such things is a huge relief on its own.

See More: How to Save Money on Accommodation as a Student


Learning the language

Even if the new language is not your 1st priority, if you’re staying somewhere for more than 6 months, you should learn it. It will be of great benefit to you.
There’s a big chance that your host family won’t speak English so you will be immersed in the local language 24/7. You will be learning it real live, you will be learning it quickly and you will be speaking it simultaneously.
By the end, you won’t even realize that you are communicating in it. At some point it will just sneak up on you.

See More: Why learning a foreign language is awesome


Living as a local

This is really one of the best perks – experiencing the culture as a local.

You should consider your hosts as a free guide for this journey. Not only will they be a valuable mediator for local customs, traditions and basic social interactions, but they will also be a great source of information for local hotspots, traveling and sightseeing.They will show you everything that you need to know and more.

Even without this, you will have the chance to observe them in their natural surroundings, in their daily routines, which will show you what it truly means to be a person from this country. One very important thing is that this experience will reveal hidden aspects of your character and nationality. It will help you compare your domestic lifestyle with the one you will have abroad and you will discover where you and your state stand on the world map.

  • Know this: no matter if you just need a room or you want full family immersion, you share this family’s experience on a profound level. This is their worries, their emotions, their live. You need to be a functioning part of it and share the experience no matter good or bad.

See More: Pros and Cons of studying in Europe


You have a family away from home

Living with a host family presents a feeling of safety.

Some will argue that you have the same feeling when living in a dorm, but when you think about it, you don’t have someone who worries about you, prepares you meals and is genuinely concerned about your well-being on a day to day basis. When you study abroad, you don’t just move from one place to another; you move from one lifestyle to another and you leave behind everything that you are used to: language, people, food, music, culture and to certain extend – habits. Even the way you have fun will change.

In times like these, you will crave for support, especially if you are young and have lived only with your family.
In such times, the host family will prove to be an invaluable help. They will comfort you, offer you a home cooked meal after a long day and will try to ease your transition as best they can. They will share your worries and joys and vice versa. In the end, you will have a long-lasting relationship and people, to whom you may return to in the future.

See More: 3 common problems I faced while planning to study abroad




Besides these pros, here are few negatives on home stay for international students! Lets check them too.

You may have less privacy

You will most certainly have your own room; however you will have to share the rest of the house (including bathroom, kitchen, internet etc.) with the members of the family.
It’s possible that your room doesn’t have a key and there are curious children in the house.
Or that you are living with an old lady, who takes great interest of your daily affairs.


You may have less freedom 

Upon application both sides will need to agree to certain terms and conditions.
The family will sign a contract where they promise to take care of you, to keep you safe and well. This most probably will result in rules, which you will need to follow in order to comply with these obligations.

You are, after all, a guest, so you will also need to follow the general rules of the household, which may vary greatly from the ones that you are used to back home.
You may be expected to sit down for dinner at a certain hour, or do chores (maintaining your room clean is a must, even if you are not required to do it!). It’s possible that there is a curfew.
You may also expect shower arrangements (most often depending on the number of the family members).
One other thing that may come in the way is the different daily agendas.
You may like going out late and sleeping until the afternoon, but the people you live with, have children who need to go to sleep early and get ready for school in the morning.
Or, you like complete silence when you study, but the family likes organizing dinners with friends and families.

No matter what is the case, you will need to be open and aware about your surroundings.
If you’re wandering about something – ask. It’s always better to clear out the uncertainties and expectations in the beginning.
Be vocal about your habits, diet and everything that is particular about you and may interfere with the others.

See More: 15 Things you should avoid if you want to win a scholarship of your dreams


Less interaction with your peers 

This is always tricky.
Not only you will have to ask your hosts for permission when bringing friends or colleagues, but also, most often, the visits will be confined to a simple soirée in your room.
So if you are a party person, you won’t be able to organize loud, colorful events at your place.
You may find yourself isolated from other travelers and the exciting situations they get themselves into. Exploring your new environment with likeminded people who are also inexperienced can be both comforting and exciting.
This feeling is the strongest when living in a dormitory with other international students. As time passes by, you construct your own community and you learn to co-exist in a fun and adventurous way.
Students, living in a host family, may miss out on this.


Uncertainty about the host family

There is always certain amount of anxiety surrounding your host family. You don’t know what to expect: if you are going to like them or if they are going to like you.

It is always worth checking what kind of people become host families in the respective country.
You, after all, are a source of income for them, so you probably shouldn’t expect a butler of Italian aristocrats to come at the airport to get you.
It is possible that, in order to gain more money, the family agreed to accept more students in their house, which could cause further difficulties.
In addition, there is a good chance that the family will live away from the center or from the university.
If, during your stay, something is bothering you, share it with the family and your representative.
If you don’t like your family and their arrangements, speak with your representative in order to find another potential host or form of accommodation.

See More: 5 most common misconceptions about studying abroad among Indians


As a conclusion:

Before you choose anything, it is better to ask yourself some questions, like the ones
bellow, which will help you determine the best option:

  • What do I expect from my stay?
  • Do I want to live with fellow travelers or other international students?
  • What kind of person am I: do I like following rules? Am I quiet and like keeping things to myself, or am I easygoing and like socializing?
  • How important it is to me to learn the language and customs of the home country?
  • Do I like living with people or alone?


Feel free to share all your home stay experiences, if you ever had a chance!

#STAFF PICK: Click here to apply for the PhD‬ & PostDoc‬ Fellowships‬ in ‪‎UK‬


Written by

An editor and writer in motion from Bulgaria, who is Interested in "everything" and "nothing" in particular. A social activist - who knows a moderate amount of things about random stuff.


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