“Home-stay” is a general term referring to any program that place foreign students with American host families living in homes near the students’ campus. Participation in such a program by the student is voluntary. Home-stay programs are sometimes organized by the campus housing office, while other times they are organized by local community organizations in partnership with the university. There are also other times when home-stay programs are not organized by any particular organization and merely consist of families offering their homes to students.
What to expect
Home-stay is an alternative environment to on-campus housing in residence halls and off-campus housing in apartments. Students who prefer a home environment surrounded by a family instead of fellow students might prefer home-stay. Home-stay allows students to have the privacy of a private room with the company of a family in the home. The student is given room in the home of the host family, usually already furnished with basic furniture like a bed, desk, closet, lamps, and bookcase. Students might also be provided with other things like Internet connection, while sharing other things like the laundry facilities, television, telephone, and meals with the family. In return, the students pay the family rent for room, meals, utilities, and anything else the family may provide the student during the stay.
The amount the student must pay per month to the host family depends on the location of the home as well as how much is provided to the student by the host family. Host families living in areas with higher costs of living, like in Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, or New York City, might charge more per month than those living in less urban areas for the same size room and facilities. Students can expect to pay a few hundred per month to cover the cost of their room, utilities, food, and anything else provided by the family. The rates might be higher than rates at an apartment or campus residence hall, but students must remember that home-stay has the added bonus of a family preparing the meals for the student, added privacy, included utilities and food costs, and a home environment.
Relationships between students and host families
Although the host family is technically the landlord, the relationship between the host family and student is meant to be much closer as the student is a temporary part of the family. The student may be invited to join in activities the family normally do such as outings and recreational activities, while also being expected to follow certain house rules set by the family. The host family also serves as a moral support to the student, helping with adjustment to the college routine, as well as life in America in general. Staying with a host family is also a great opportunity for the student to learn first-hand about American culture, while sharing with the host family the student’s native culture.
Making the decision
Students are not required to stay with host families throughout the entire duration of their studies. Some students move out to stay with host families after staying in campus residence halls to seek a quieter, more private place to stay. Others are in home-stays to “give it a try” before choosing to move out to apartments instead. There have also been students who have stayed with host families through their entire term of study because they like coming home to a family environment after a long day at school. In the end, it is up to the student’s personal preference over whether home-stay is the right choice.