Has your program placed you in a home stay? In a home stay, you will live with a host family and immerse yourself in their culture and language. For example, you might share meals together or they might take you around the city. Be aware that not all host families are in a nuclear family with parents and children. Depending on your program, hosts can vary in terms of age and family situation. Continue reading for more information on home stay living abroad.
It may be several years since you were living in a family situation – having probably left home to attend college and university. One of the features of your COST school placement is that, unless specifically requested otherwise in your application, accommodation has been found for you with a family that is linked to the school in which you are placed - the link usually being that the family has one or more children enrolled at the school in which you have been placed and usually within walking distance of the school. Host families have been specially selected by your school principal and overseas COST Coordinator and provide you with the opportunity to not only experience family life in your placement country but also to witness the school-home connection.
Your home stay setting offers you a secure and welcoming environment from which to approach the challenges of adapting to a different culture, a different school system, a different curriculum, different accents, words and nationalities. The family will welcome you as a daughter/son as they assume responsibility for and contribute to your welfare, safety, success and enjoyment of your time in country. They, along with your associate teacher, principal, observer, COST Coordinator and other American teacher education students placed in the same location at the same time as you, form your support network while there. Everyone does their utmost to ensure a successful outcome for you.
As well as developing teaching skills, you are abroad to experience living outside your own country. This means seeing the sights of your host country, seeing your own country from afar and sharing and comparing perceptions of its culture with people you meet and from the media. Tourist and social activities can be enjoyed most once you have settled in and become familiar with the school and classroom expectations of your school placement.
Make sure that any of your family members or friends who want to visit while you are abroad come at the end of your school placement. It can prove quite disruptive to a student and hosts if people come during the school placement and especially during the period of full responsibility for the classroom program.
adapted with permission from COST - Christchurch, New Zealand "Homestay Protocol"
Returning students often report that the host families experience was one of the best aspects of living abroad. By being in a home stay, you will:
- Interact daily with locals.
- Become a member of the family and build life-long bonds.
- Experience first-hand the customs you will learn about while you teach your class.
- Practice a foreign language with native speakers in their day-to-day lives.
- Have meals provided by your host family (this varies by program; check with your overseas coordinator to see what is included).
Despite the many benefits of living with a host family, it can also be challenging, especially if you’ve lived on your own in college and are used to independence. You will be living in someone else’s house, and your host may have rules that you should follow. Also, there will be cultural differences.
In many areas of the world certain special diets, such as vegetarian, are not common. Not eating the food your host family prepares, even if for dietary reasons, may be considered rude. If, for cultural, religious, or personal reasons you do not eat certain types of food, contact your Overseas COST Coordinator before you leave to ensure that a host family can accommodate you.
You may be the first minority, disabled, or LGBT student housed by your host family. Don’t let this deter you from living in a home stay. In spite of your differences, your host family will probably be just as interested in your culture as you will be in theirs. Even if you share a cultural heritage with your host family, do not expect them to be just like you. Remember, being open-minded about every aspect of living abroad will ensure that you gain the most from your experience.