Homestay is such a crucial part of a student’s experience abroad and it usually is where students have the biggest difficulties adjusting to their new life abroad.
One of the biggest problems for a lot of countries and cities is that home-stays have become a business. There is a big difference between a family who wants to have a foreign student in their home because of the cultural experience, and a family who wants to have a student only because it is a source of income. With the latter, students are more likely to experience problems, bad experiences, and horror stories....
We had a chance to talk to some of our agents and friends in the sector and investigate some of the most horrific homestay stories. Here are some of the worst we found. It should be said that these are very extreme and are the exception, and not the rule. (All students involved in the following stories were promptly changed to other homestays)
"Mom, there are Rats in my room!" This is what Andrea (not her real name) told her Mom in Mexico after hearing strange noises in her room the first night and finding a couple of black fat rats digging and eating the caramel sweets that she brought as a gift for her homestay family....
One student from Korea reported to the homestay coordinator at the school, that his room was changed to one inside the garage due to the arrival of the homestay’s family new baby. Because the new parents did not want any noise in the house for the newborn, his family did not allow him to enter the house, and his food was delivered to his room twice a day. He also had a strict schedule to use the bathroom.
One female student from Brazil requested a change of homestay, after her homestay dad casually exited the bathroom and walked around the kitchen naked, where she was having breakfast....
House rules from hell
One student reported that the House rules in his homestay were crazy. “What do you mean crazy?” the homestay coordinator asked Well, they measure and weigh my food, they time my showers, and if I go over the time, they cut the hot water. They don't turn the heater at night (And it was middle of winter in eastern Canada) and they have an allowance of how much toilet paper I can use per week....
One male student had to change homestay families after the police raided his house at 2AM. Apparently, the family had a lucrative side business growing marijuana in the basement.
So all this leaves us with the question:
What could agents do, so your clients don't have a bad homestay experience?
Here are five tips that can help your students have awesome homestay experiences:
1) Keep track of good families: If you are doing your homework and following up with your students, you will get feedback from the families where they are staying. If they rave about them, put in the ¨great homestay list¨ Then, start requesting those families every time you have new students.
2) Maximum number of students: In some places it is common for families to host a couple of students; however, when you have renovated part of your house so you can host 8 students, really what you have is a small hostel. Usually, more than three international students in the house are just too many.
3) Language Spoken at the homestay: This one should be a no-brainer and a standard in the industry. However, often schools and providers place students that speak the same language in the same household, especially in the summer. You must be clear and demand that this type of arrangement is unacceptable. Students are paying top dollar to learn a language, and having another person who speaks their own language is jeopardizing important immersive learning.
4) House Location: This is a tricky one, as some cities only have home-stays in the suburbs. However, when a student needs to take two buses and a train and spend one and half hours every day to get to and from the school, it’s just a bit too much. Before you accept the family for the student, make sure you search where it is located and how easy it is to access by public transit.
5) Expectations: Some clients have very specific expectations about what a homestay family should be, look like, do, don´t do. It is very important that the students get realistic feedback on what a homestay is, and iis not, so there are no surprises when they arrive.
Do you have any positive or horror homestay stories? Please share them with us for a future edition!