The Essential Guide for Homestay Students covers everything from culture shock, to the role of women, to operating home appliances, to personal safety. In writing the guide, we have deliberately made it short and easy to read. The table of contents makes it simple to look up a topic for help.
The guide is available in eight versions, allowing your students to access the information in their native language:
- Chinese Simplified (for students from mainland China)
- Chinese Traditional (for students from Hong Kong and Taiwan)
The books are used by homestay programs across North America, as an orientation tool or as part of a welcome kit. A successful homestay is vital to your students having a positive experience in your educational program.
Here are two excerpts from The Essential Guide for Homestay Students:
It helps to have clear expectations before leaving and to evaluate whether they are realistic. You may even want to write them down to be open with yourself and to have a record for later.
What does homestay mean for you? What do you expect and want from the experience – and from the people who will play a large role in it? How much nurturing do you need?
It’s essential to consider what you can do for your host and not simply remain preoccupied with what the host can do for you.
When you are in North America, as you encounter problems you can return to your expectations and consider their part in any disappointments. Maybe your expectations were unreasonable. Maybe you have not tried hard enough to achieve your goals.
Some misconceptions that are common:
- North America is glamorous and everyone is rich – just like in Hollywood movies. In fact, you will probably be living an ordinary life with a family that is neither rich nor poor. It probably, for example, won’t have a maid to look after your needs.
- North America families are all white and headed by a mother and father. In fact, North America is quite multicultural and as we’ve said the nature of families is quite varied.
- The family will dote on you, with the mother devoting much of her day to making your life easier. In fact, family members will cherish their time with you but they have their own lives to lead.
- The homestay will be like a hotel. In fact, you will have your own room but likely be sharing all the other facilities.
- Meals will be like a restaurant. You will have a large breakfast with a convenient choice; several options for lunch; and a full-course dinner, with soup and dessert. In fact, meals tend to be hurried and often quite casual.
- You will be the only homestay student in the household. In fact, often more than one student will be living with the family. That may be an advantage, as it gives you somebody with whom to share your experience.
- The homestay is a convenient spot to wait while you search for another place to stay. In fact, that is highly unfair to the homestay family who could have taken another student for the full term. It also cheats yourself, because homestay is an important part of the experience of learning a new language and culture.
Some students think that after homestay they will be able to speak English like a native. English is a very complex language and speaking it well takes considerable time. But rest assured, you will improve your English dramatically.
By keeping your expectations reasonable – and clear – you will better enjoy the homestay experience.
Most homestay hosts provide breakfast and dinner. Depending on the program, lunch may or may not be included. If it is, you can make a lunch to take to school. The food will be very different from what you are accustomed to and the manner of eating will probably be as well.
During the school/work week, breakfasts are informal, as everybody quickly eats something before rushing out the door. Most students take a bag lunch – a sandwich, or perhaps some leftovers in a plastic container, along with a drink, and fruit or cookies. Most likely, you will prepare your own lunch.
Dinner will be more like what you are accustomed to, in the sense that everybody tries to eat together and a parent usually cooks. But it’s probably at a much earlier hour and sometimes rushed, because family members may have events to attend in the evening. Again, we stress it’s your responsibility to be home for dinner on time. Don’t expect the mother to be patiently waiting, with the food still warm, if you arrive two hours later. Instead, you will have to reheat any leftovers or make a sandwich.