When studying abroad you usually have a couple of options of living situations; some programs put all their students in dorms, others require you find your own apartment, and some place you with a local family.
The program I’m in is a homestay, so I am living with a host family. This was one of the most important criteria for me when choosing a study abroad program. In my opinion, having a host family is the best way to study abroad. Of course, having a host family isn’t for everyone (if you are a picky eater or have trouble living with new people, maybe avoid this type of program). There are going to be lot’s of awkward moments and adjustments to be made when living with a new family in a foreign country. But if you are willing to push through all of that it will end up being an incredibly enriching experience. For me, it’s made all the difference in making me feel like a part of the community here in Siena, Italy.
Here are just a couple of reasons I love having a host family:
1. Home cooked meals when you’re a thousand miles from home: Every morning when I wake up breakfast is laid out and a lunch is packed for me, and every night I have a warm two course meal to look forward to. I get to experience how local Italians really eat and the types of dishes particular to this region. If I were forced to cook for myself in an apartment or eat dorm food I would miss out on this experience. Plus the food is better than anything I could ever cook and a lot more convenient.
2. Constant opportunities to practice your language skills: When you are living in a house with people that literally know no English you’re forced to speak their language. Even if at first you’re mostly communicating via hand gestures, eventually your vocabulary and confidence in the language will increase.
3. Learn how to live with new people: This is an amazingly useful skill to have. Most likely you will have lot’s of roommates in your life; some you love and get along with swimmingly and others you can’t stand but must deal with. Living with people that have a completely different culture than you and live their lives completely differently is an amazing way for you to open your mind and understand that no one is exactly like you and that’s okay. Plus, more than likely none of your future roommates will hang your laundry out the window.
4. Watch Disney movies in foreign language: If there are youngins in your host family you will be able to witness what it’s like to grow up in that country. And yes, you may even get to watch Spongebob in another language.
5. Older host siblings will show you what’s up: If your host siblings are older they can show you all the hot spots and take you out at night with the locals. They’ll teach you how to be cool in their country and what it’s like to be a true young person in this country. Most importantly you’ll avoid only going out with fellow American students.
6. You have an insider source for everything: Your host family will teach you how to use the bus system, where the best restaurants are, when the big sales are, what sights you NEED to see in the country you’re staying. They’re like your own personal tour guide and trust them because they won’t steer you wrong.
7. You don’t have to do your own laundry: Major perk! Not only do you not have to do your own laundry, but you also don’t need to pay for it.
8. You have someone worrying about you and taking care of you: It’s nice to have people to come home to when your home is thousands of miles away. Or to have someone take care of you when you’re sick and tell you to bring an umbrella if it’s supposed to rain. You don’t realize you truly miss these things when you live by yourself.
9. You get to be a participant in the culture: Instead of just observing the culture you get to be a part of it and experience how people in this country really live. Isn’t that why you’re studying abroad in the first place?
10. An excuse to come back: After living with a family for four months you’re bound to become really close and miss them when you go back home. Now, you have a reason to come back and visit and a place to stay when you do.
What do you think, host family or dorm? Let me know in the comments!
For more advice and relatable posts about study abroad check back here every week. Good luck and happy travels!