Have you ever seen or heard an ad where they quote the line, “Don’t just visit, live it!” This is pretty much what homestay is all about. It is a bit similar to couch surfing, but the period of stay is much longer. It offers travellers the opportunity to co-habituate with a foster family and enjoy the opportunity to live and learn from the locals themselves.
Trying this experience enables one to engage with the locals on a firsthand basis. It’s an opportunity to learn the local dialect from your host and even learn more about their culture and customs.
Homestay usually involves an agreement/contract with your host. It can be made verbally or better established in print. These agreements address the guest’s length of stay, use of the house facilities, etc.
Sometimes, the foster family and the guest may include off-the-record agreements, such as doing chores in exchange for some amenities, food, learning language or just by having a free guided tour.
Beforehand, travellers make use of advertising websites to look for potential foster families/hosts. This kind of method is possible but is not always advisable. Risks of getting scammed or swindled using this kind of method is probable. However, since the couchsurfing trend eventually flourished overtime, homestay apps were created to cater to the needs of legit and safe home sharing.
These apps offer interested individuals the opportunity to connect with those who are willing to open their homes to students and travellers. Both parties may use the apps to interact and finalize their transaction.
There are also homestay programs offered to students who seek to learn languages on foreign countries. These are commonly offered by some educational and language institutions both locally and abroad. These programs make the perfect opportunity for aspiring language students who wish to take advantage of learning and travelling.
Already decided to try homestay? There are a few things travellers and students need to take note of during the whole process. These key points include the following:
Make your Needs Known. It’s imperative to address important issues with your organization before settling with a foster family. Issues regarding medical conditions, dietary needs, curfew, religion and even phobias are important points to consider if you want to establish a comfortable environment for both the guest and host.
Try to Join your Foster Family during Meals. Most homestay programs have the option to include meal arrangements with the foster family only if the student wished to do so. However, it is advisable for guests to join their foster families for at least one meal to help establish a better bond between both parties. This also entails opportunity for the student to have a firsthand encounter with the locals and learn a lot from their customs and way of life.
Do discuss the “rules” within the first few days. Communication is important between both parties in order to develop a more secure understanding of each other’s needs and demands. When in doubt with some concerns, it is advisable to talk with your host regarding the matter. Avoid making assumptions because this often leads to misunderstandings between the two parties.
Bring a thoughtful gift. Normally, guests bring tokens that represent a part of their culture. This is a customary way of giving gratitude and building relationships with your foster family.
Be respectful of local customs and propriety. Every place has its own set of culture and customs to observe. Being polite and courteous does not hurt. Always remember that as a foreigner, you should know your place and learn to respect the local’s norms.
Have constant communication with the organization that placed you there. In worst case scenarios where a conflict between the guest and the host arises, the subject organization shall serve as the middle man for both parties. They can either help reach settlement for both parties or find the guest a new foster family who will cater suitably to their needs.
All in all, homestay is a warranted a learning experience. It gives both travellers and students the opportunity to learn and explore foreign places in a different light. It also makes them realize that the learning process does not have to be always boring.