Over the years, we at Harmony Homestay have watched our students and families create life-long memories and build global relationships that extend far beyond their stay in Canada. That’s why we’ve asked our experienced host families for their best tips and practices when hosting a homestay student.
The most important thing to remember is everyone is different. Most of our students are excited to learn everything about you from the get-go, while others may be more reserved, and will need some time before happily joining in your family’s activities. Ultimately, your job as a host family is to create a warm and open-door experience for your homestay student, so they can feel right at home.
Keep reading for our best tips and practices when hosting a homestay student.
1. Get organized as best you can before your visitor arrives.
As with most things, planning ahead is key. We expect all host families to be able to provide their student(s) with a private bedroom with at least one window, a bed, desk, drawers, heating, and wireless internet. Have this room set-up ahead of your student’s arrival, and bring out the fresh blankets and towels! Including a small welcome sign or gift can also go a long way to make your guest feel welcome in your home.
We also recommend reviewing any house rules you may have to pass on to your homestay guest upon arrival. Are shoes allowed in the house? Are any parts of the house off-limits? Even if you don’t have set rules with your own family, it’s good to start this discussion with your guest as soon as possible to ensure everyone is on the same page and avoid future misunderstandings.
Some other questions you may want to consider:
- Will they have a curfew?
- Are they expected to help cook or clean-up after meals?
- Can they invite friends over after school?
Lastly, remember that your guest is visiting from a different country. Consider potential culture differences before their arrival, and take some time to learn about their country’s culture and traditions. In fact, many of our hosts like to learn a bit about our students’ cuisines so they can learn how to cook new foods together! We like to think exchanging cultures is one of the best parts of hosting.
2. Make an effort to help your student feel at home.
When it comes time for you and your guest to meet, anticipation is high. Everyone is excited, but nervous – and rightfully so! Keep in mind that many of our students are flying in from all around the world, and may be tired and jet lagged upon first introduction. Because of this, it’s best to start by keeping things simple.
At the house, introduce your homestay student to all other members of the family and pets, if any, and show them to their room. Make an effort to help your student feel at home and give them a detailed tour of the house. Explain what’s on and off limits, what your rules are, and summarize your routines. It’s also best not to assume they know how everything works, so demonstrating simple actions like how to turn on the stove, shower, or TV can really help your student get to know your home.
Many host families are happy to allow students to help themselves to anything in the house. Remember that your student may be a bit shy and nervous at first, and will need a bit of encouragement and gentle reminders to feel comfortable before making themselves at home.
3. Be clear and patient with your communication.
Since many of our students choose to live abroad in Canada to learn English and experience life with a Canadian family, we require all our host families to exclusively speak English to our students. While they are all learning English in school, some students may be a little less fluent than others. When communicating, speak clearly and slowly and be patient. While repeating yourself a few times may be helpful, simplifying your words or writing them down may be more effective if your student is still having trouble understanding after several tries.
Encouraging open communication is the best way to ensure a successful host–student relationship. If you are having problems with your student, try to calmly discuss your concerns with your student without raising your voice, and let your student know they can do the same. Be ready to listen and let them know they can talk to you at any time.
We truly believe the relationships created between our students and host families are something special. In addition to sharing your family’s culture and traditions with others, you get to play a part in a life-changing experience that will leave a mark on a young student’s life forever.
“Our family has grown exponentially to include our students and their families who we still keep in touch with years later. Hearing how happy our students’ parents are with their growth during their time abroad gives us a sense of pride in what we do.“Stacey G., Coquitlam