Each center provides information and assistance to students who would like to live off campus. Students should contact the institute they are interested in to get institute specific information. Contact Us
Living in a dorm provides great opportunities for learning English and meeting people. Dormitory rooms are available for both married and single INTERLINK students. Students should contact the institute they are interested in to get institute specific information. Contact Us
One way for students to get the most of their cross-cultural experience at INTERLINK is to live with American families. Living with an American family gives students the opportunity to practice their English outside of the classroom, learn more about American customs and culture, and make life-long friends. Homestays are dependent on availability of host families. If you apply and cannot be placed, your application fee will be refunded.
Carefully consider the following questions and answers to help you make a decision about whether you are the kind of person for whom a homestay is most appropriate. If you decide to do a homestay, please consult the US Institute of your choice about how to apply, or visit their websites for instructions – Indiana State University, Montana State University, Seattle Pacific University, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Click the questions below to see the answers.
What is a Homestay?
A “homestay” is a cultural exchange in which a person visiting or temporarily staying in another country lives with a family in the host country. Homestays involve relationships between people and should not be confused with a boarding-house or hotel experience in which a person only rents a room. While students pay their own expenses for room and board, the purpose of an INTERLINK homestay is not just to provide a place to stay but to create an enriching learning experience for both the student and the host family. There are homestays for short periods (one night or a weekend) and for longer times (a vacation period, a term, several terms).
What kind of student is best suited for a homestay?
Homestays are available and useful for students of any age, from 16 to 60, but they are not ideal for every student and every situation. Homestays are probably most helpful for students coming to the United States for the first time and interested in having a safe, family environment in which to: practice English and get used to life in a different country; learn about American family life and values; interact with people of different ages; and share their own culture and interests. Homestay students must be willing to make an effort to communicate and cooperate with others and accept the rules and preferences of the families with whom they live. For example, most homestay families do not allow smoking in their homes. Because of the additional responsibility involved, students seeking a homestay should be mature, stable individuals who are good-natured and flexible. Such students usually have a positive and memorable homestay experience.
What kind of families participate in the homestay program?
There are many different kinds of families involved: retired couples, single-parent families, single individuals, widows, as well as traditional families. But whether they are young or old, with or without children, they all share a strong interest in international students and cross-cultural communication. Many of them have traveled or lived abroad, so they can identify with you. They are excited to welcome you into their homes and assist you in your adjustment to life here.
What do homestay families expect of students?
Like families all over the world, most American families are interdependent, which means that individuals often must give up some of their own independence in order to help family relationships run smoothly. Living with a family requires a kind of cooperation that sometimes involves some personal sacrifices. A student becomes like a member of the family, not a guest. As a result, families may have certain expectations of students such as participation in family activities, cleaning their rooms, keeping reasonable hours, communicating clearly with the family about their schedules, and occasionally helping with cooking or other household chores.
What are the advantages of a homestay?
There are many benefits of a homestay. First of all, a homestay allows students to use English all the time. Students learn to communicate effectively with native speakers in a natural setting. Second, living with a family provides a quiet atmosphere for study and a greater sense of security for some students. Third, a homestay exposes students to a rich variety of cultural learning opportunities, such as family activities, holiday celebrations, religious practices, sporting events, etc. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a homestay often results in students developing deep, lasting friendships with their families. Such a personal connection gives many students a real sense of stability in their lives here.
Are there difficulties with a homestay?
The major difficulty is a practical one – transportation. Students without cars sometimes find homestays to be inconvenient and isolating. Homestay families sometimes do not live very close to INTERLINK, and they are usually unable to provide transportation on a regular basis. Students who do not live close enough to school to walk or ride a bicycle use public transportation, or get a car, or arrange to ride to school with another student who has a car.
Tips for a Successful Homestay Experience
Living with a family, your own or an American family, takes understanding and patience. You will have misunderstandings and minor problems, but they can be worked out. The advantage of working on your relationship is a lasting friendship with a family of another culture, and much more personal growth as well.
Be observant. Notice ways you can be helpful to your family. Clear your dishes from the table after dinner. Clean up the kitchen if you do your own cooking or fix a snack for yourself. Keep your bedroom neat and clean. If the family is doing work around the house or in the yard, offer to help them.
Let your family know if you plan to be gone for dinner or for the weekend, or if you will arrive later than usual. Your host mother will appreciate knowing how many persons to cook dinner for and will want to know where you are in case of telephone calls or an emergency.
Pay for your room, or room and board, in advance each month and try to pay on time.
Make telephone calls to your country collect or with a phone card or have your family call you. Long-distance calls are very expensive and most families do not want to pay for other people’s calls at the end of the month – it can be a very expensive bill.
Let your host family know what kind of food you enjoy eating. Sometimes they worry that they are not cooking food you like and would appreciate your telling them what you like. Thank them if you particularly enjoy a meal!
If your host family takes you to a movie or a special event, offer to pay your own way. Sometimes, families want to include students in their recreational activities, but don’t have the money to pay for the tickets.
If you have questions about house rules or procedures, just ask. Do you know who is supposed to do your laundry? Where do dirty clothes go? Is smoking allowed in the bedroom? Is it OK to take snacks from the refrigerator? Can you bring friends home any time? Your family wants you to feel “at home” and the best way to do this is to find out what rules the family has for its family members.
Electricity and gas heat are very expensive in the US, sometimes as much as $300-$400 per month. Try to turn off the lights after using them. Ask if there are any special rules about keeping the heat thermostat at a certain temperature. Make sure that your shower or bath does not last so long as to inconvenience other family members.
Try to learn about American culture through your experience with your family. Ask about their customs and beliefs; notice the ways which they do things – there may be small or big differences from how you are accustomed to living in your own country. Although you need not change completely, you will find that by copying some of the customs of your family you will feel more a part of the group and more comfortable with Americans in general.