Living with a homestay family can be a daunting thought and sometimes a drastic transition for many. Given the many highlights of being able to study abroad and language immersion training, there are some challenges when living with a host family. In new and changing environments such as these, the key is to be as open minded as possible. This gives an opportunity for both the hosting family and yourself to take things one step at a time. Some of these common challenge factors often begin with the language barrier, cultural differences and general living arrangements. These do not cover all the possible concerns but do highlight the most common concerns.

Cultural differences

One of the most difficult initial things to overcome are the cultural differences to be faced. There will be expected norms that exist that you will have to learn to understand and apply when living with the host families, and in extension this new society. The aim is to be very observant and do not be afraid to ask questions. You will not know how you may be expected to behave not only at home but in that new society, so feel free to make it known when and how you may need clarifications. Behavioural nuances, especially, will have a major impact on how communication is conveyed in a different culture. Give yourself some time to adjust, there is nothing wrong with getting things wrong initially, after all, it will all be a part of learning.

Language barrier

Hand in hand with cultural differences comes to the obvious language barrier. Not being able to understand those that will be your new family can be a stressful experience; especially for those that have none of respective language skills. The family members will be prepared to expect this challenge. They will play a big part in the learning process and will be as supportive as is possible to ensure you are comfortable while living, learning and trying to talk.

Living arrangements

Living with a host carries new sets of living arrangements. In some instances, students may be placed with couples, young professionals or families with children of varying ages. The host mother and host father will be expected to lead this process of explaining what their household is like and how you are expected to fit in. There will be general rules with regards to daily routines such as meal times, keeping your room clean and other such house rules. These adjustments will take some time but your host mom will be there as a critical person to help to not make you feel uncomfortable. Your host sister will also give welcoming assistance for your concerns and what needs to be done.

A major challenge of living comes with potential dietary restrictions. The family norms regarding meals and snacking will vary and it will take some time to get accustomed to. For some, the adjustment may be even more difficult if health issues such as allergies are included. Your host mom will be able to identify how new meal planning can be incorporated.
Host siblings will be a big help to this experience as firstly they will be close or within your age range and will be able to relate one some levels. They may be more patient in many areas and will be eager to learn from you as much as you will from them.

Other challenges

Students of high school years are often paired with families that will have host siblings, this will definitely assist in the new family experience. There will be unforeseen difficulties with how relationships are formed with those siblings and what may happen at school. But with much persistence for those going into their junior year of high school, they will have a needed friend not only at home but in school. Leaving a home, which is indeed still new and entering a new school brings another dynamic of change. Host families will be most aware of this and as such will help in as many ways possible to buffer the many uncertainties to come.
It will be a rather emotional time when you miss your native friends, families and familiar environments. It is understood that this can affect your daily life and attitudes to those around. In extension, it can affect how well you are able to learn and truly enjoy new people, things and a language.

In order to have a successful homestay involvement, it is important to maintain consistent communication with your native family. They will be able to give added motivation and problem-solving tips for your time away. Always stay in touch and even invite your host family to get to know where you are from and what your family is like. You may be delighted at the responses you may receive after that form of engagement. These families open their homes to others not just as a source of income but for a genuine interested in the well being of those left in their care as well as the focus of facilitating a unique experience of learning a language. Given the many challenges to overcome, spend time cherishing the invaluable experiences once the journey begins; it will be worth the effort.

Please take at our Host Family perspective on Accommodating Foreign Students.

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