This blog post was updated on July 16, 2019.

Knocking on the door of your new home for the next few months in a foreign country can be intimidating. Staying with a host family to study abroad can lend great cultural immersion, but it isn’t always easy. Homestays require more adjustment than just living with other students. There are different customs and cultures to consider and homesickness to battle. If you’re preparing to hop on cheap international flights to go live with a host family, here’s everything you need to know before you arrive.

Do Your Research on Where You’ll Be Living

two young women studying

While homestays can be great for learning a language and a new culture, they can also be isolating. You aren’t living with other students in a dorm-like setup. You might be placed in a home that’s way outside the city or far from any sort of public transportation. Especially in the planning stages of considering a homestay, you’ll want to find out where you could be living. You don’t want to be too isolated, as it can make homesickness worse. Students should ask questions about their program as to where these families live. Once you are placed with a host family, you should continue to do your research. Being self-aware about where you’re living can go a long way toward preventing any homesickness or feelings of isolation.

Understand What Is Included and What Isn’t

young woman on the computer

Some homestays include three meals a day with your host family. Others might include only one. Some families might provide transportation for you. Others expect you to be more self-sufficient and get your own bus pass. Before you sign up for a homestay, you’ll want to know what is included and what isn’t. Being a student, you don’t want to show up to your homestay and find out you are responsible for an expense you didn’t foresee.

Interested in taking a trip abroad? Score cheap international flights to get there! 

Get to Know Family Dynamics and Cultural Norms

family eating breakfast

Every culture is different, especially when you go live with families and experience their day-to-day lives. Students can face great culture shock if they don’t know what they’re walking into during their homestay. While you can’t research what your family will be like exactly, you can in the very least arrive with some idea as to how family dynamics work in your destination. A little cultural and social research will help you understand your new family a bit more before you walk through that door.

Expect Rules and Routines You’ll Have to Follow

young man making bed

Just as your parents probably had rules and routines for you to follow when you lived under their roof, your homestay family may have guidelines for their house as well. As a foreign student walking into their home, they might expect you to clean up your room or not leave lights on when you leave. Not only is it important to be respectful of these house rules, but it’s also imperative to know them right when you arrive to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes. It’s their home after all. You should fit into their family, not the other way around.

Be Prepared to Learn a Language

learning Turkish language from flash cards

One of the main benefits of living with locals in foreign countries comes in the language department. If you are at all interested in learning a language, a homestay is the best place to do it. Every exchange with your host family becomes a conversation course. If you aren’t looking to learn a language, a homestay might not be the right experience for you. And if you want to learn a language, be prepared to tell your host family. Some families will want to work on their English with you, which can certainly make dinners easier and less like a game of charades in the early days. However, if you want to learn, you need to encourage your host family not to speak English with you.

You may also like: 5 Tips on How You Can Make the Most of Your Study Abroad Experience

Speak With Students Who Have Done Homestays in Your Selected Country

young woman on the phone

While every student will have a different experience on their homestay, if your host family has hosted students before, see if you can speak to those former students before you even start looking for cheap international flights to your destination. They might be able to give you some insight into how your stay will be and even put your mind at ease about any fears and trepidation you may have. And if you’re merely considering a homestay, find students who have done homestays in the country you are considering. In the very least, they can educate you on what to expect when living with local families.

Studying abroad and living with a host family? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

About The Author

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at