Deciding to travel abroad for a semester or full school year will be one of the most memorable experiences in your student life. However, if you choose the wrong company, it can be a headache and a stressful experience.

When you start looking for a homestay company for your international placement, do your research as not all companies are equal. Not only will costs and fees differ, but the services and experience they provide can be vastly different.

So, how do you know which homestay company to choose? Here are 5 things to ask a prospective international student homestay placement company:

Do you have local expertise?

You might already have a country or region that fascinates you, or you want to learn more about. This is a good place to start narrowing down your homestay company options. Most will specialize in a city or small geographic region. For example, Harmony Homestay focuses on Greater Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada.

This geographical specificity helps ensure they have a good understanding and connections in the local community, to best place students with the right family. Some companies, like Harmony Homestay, have connections with school districts and can help with your school applications too.

What homestay options do you offer?

Not all homestays are the same. Some are a few months, and others are for an entire school year. Not every homestay company will have both. So it’s important to know what kind of homestay you’re looking for.

Some homestay companies have unique types of accommodations. For example, you may be interested in living on a farm, or in a big city. If you have preferences for the type of family you’d like to join, be sure to include that in your application for consideration.

Will you arrange my travel?

To save you and your parents headaches, inquire if the company can provide travel arrangements for you. You’ll need air transportation from your home city to your host family city and most reputable homestay companies can make these arrangements for you. This will likely include your arrival and departure only, not any other travel you may do during your stay.

Confirm that the homestay company will greet you at the airport upon arrival. They can meet you at your terminal and drive you to their offices or directly to your homestay family’s home. Make sure this is true, because it’s not safe to have the homestay family, whom you’ve never met, pick you up at the airport (at least not without a representative from the homestay company in attendance).

A testimonial from one of our homestay hosts
Above is a testimonial from one of our countless homestay hosts, David & Linda, reflecting about how much their international students meant to them.

What’s included in my fees? What do I pay out-of-pocket later?

Be clear and ask about what your monthly fees cover. They will likely cover all essentials, including a small stipend for the host family for the cost of accommodations and feeding you.

You’ll still want to bring or have access to funds for sundry and personal items, snacks, and some activities that you want to do with yourself or your new friends, independent of your host family.

Ask the homestay company about approximately how much things like bus transportation and personal items cost in your host country so you can budget accordingly.

Once you’ve found one or two possible homestay companies that meet your requirements, look for online reviews. Keep in mind hiccups occasionally happen, and they can taint an otherwise fabulous homestay. But, they should be enough to get a good idea that it’s a reputable company that performs homestay placements ethically and to everyone’s satisfaction.

(At the end of your homestay, be sure to leave an online review for the company. Your feedback can help the homestay company better meet the needs of future families, and might be the comments that convince a fellow student to embark on the same journey.)

Looking for a homestay in Vancouver, Canada?

Harmony Homestay specializes in placing international students with homestay families in the Greater Vancouver area of BC, Canada. We provide both short term (one semester) and full year placements. We can place you with families ready to welcome you into their home now and show you Canadian culture. Our team will take care of your travel arrangements at the beginning and end of your stay so you just have to pack and get excited.

Transparency is important so we’ll detail what your monthly fee will include and what you’ll need to pay for on your own. As a bonus, we are a registered agency with many local school districts so we can help you with your application forms, free of charge, and other additional homestay and custodianship services for an additional fee if needed.

We have a diverse database of homestay families so you can have the best experience during your time abroad. We are dedicated to providing the best possible match for both you and your host family to ensure you feel safe, comfortable, and well cared for during your stay.

Apply to be a homestay student with our Vancouver families today and we’ll find the best family for the experience you want.

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