Outtake from DIY Erasers
As a teenager, my parents hosted girls from many countries, and I attribute this experience as part of the reason why I am so interested in languages and other cultures today. I knew then that I wanted to do the same when I had a home. We hosted students before squirrelly babe and are very excited to host again next month! In case any of you are thinking about taking on this adventure, I thought I’d share my 10 tips on hosting international students.
For those of you who are brand new to this idea, you generally have to apply to become a homestay family (unless you want to go the craigslist route). In my experience, these programs tend to look for the following:
- Separate bedroom with a bed, desk, chair, closet, and dresser
- English only environment (no other students/family members who speak the same language)
- Easy transit distance to school
- Three meals a week
The application process varies per institution, but is generally simple. You may be required to submit a criminal record check and photos of your space. A home visit from the homestay coordinator is also common. Some good places to start inquiring are:
- Your local school district (for school aged students only)
- Local universities/colleges
- Local ESL schools
- Homestay agencies – if a simple google search doesn’t bring them up, a local ESL school might be able to help.
1. Learn about their culture before they arrive
I don’t mean clothes or food, but rather social taboos and nuances. Conflict can happen if you don’t understand a students’ behaviour, resulting in internal, aggravating thoughts like “WHY is he constantly sniffling and snorting? BLOW YOUR NOSE!?”, “Why does she look horrified? I only gave her a thumbs up for a good job.”. Blowing your nose in public is offensive in Japan, China, and many other cultures, and thumbs up essentially means ‘up yours’ in the middle east. That’s not to say you shouldn’t completely change your behaviour. These students are here to learn English and our culture, but just be mindful if you’re met with blank stares or confusing behaviour.
2. Get proper insurance
Just in case there is any damage done to your home, or any properly stolen (you gotta cover your bases) get the appropriate insurance. I’ve never heard of any incidences requiring insurance, but you don’t want to get caught without.
3. Make contact before they arrive
If possible, get their e-mail address before they arrive to introduce yourself. Having that bit of communication beforehand makes the transition that much smoother.
4. It isn’t just about the paycheque
If you’re looking to get into this only for the extra money, shred your application now. Hosting an international student is a lot of work – you have to introduce them to your city and public transit, cook for them, entertain them, and be their family away from family. It’s a bit like having an independent (hopefully) child. But, if you like people and learning about other cultures, the rewards are huge.
5. Make them part of the family, not just a guest
Include them in your family outings, family game/movie nights, enrol them in chore duty, set guidelines and expectations (more on this below), help them with their homework when needed and converse regularly. These students are here to be fully immersed in your culture, so immerse them!
6. When home sickness hits, find a grocery store
When I lived in Japan I revelled in finding food from home – cranberry juice and granola type cereal was the biggest deal of all. We love taking our students to the local grocery stores from their homes and letting them pick out their favourite snacks, and the huge smiles on their faces tells me they loved it too. Food is a massive comfort, so having this little piece of home helps combat that home sickness just a little bit. You could even plan a meal with them and have them teach you how to make their favourite dish.
7. Plan fun activities – be a tourist!
It doesn’t have to be expensive either, as you most likely have to foot the bill. Your student is new to your city, so even a trip through a historic part of town or a hike around a lake will be new and exciting for them. Your student may be a social butterfly however with weekend plans, so if they don’t want to hang out with you, don’t take it personally.
8. Set house rules and guidelines
Family members are expected to follow a set of house rules – it’s no different for your students. Teach them when they arrive and throughout their stay. Create a manual for them to check back on. Some key items:
- Dish duty – who cleans up and when
- Laundry instructions
- Room cleaning
- Bathroom rules
This last point is a big one as many countries have a drain, meaning water is left to drain away. Set a rule where the floor must be dried after every bath/shower. Also, put a time limit on showers if you aren’t prone to taking 30 minute long ones yourself.
9. Inspect the rooms semi regularly
It’s still your house and you need to maintain its integrity. Make sure the student knows you’ll be checking in on the rooms to ensure everything is in order. Note that I DO NOT mean go through your students’ belongings. Leave their items alone unless they present a danger. For example, I had a student who would frequently pile clothes and other items on top of the heater, which was left on quite hot. I made the habit of checking his room in the morning, moving these items, and turning down the heat. Make sure to speak with your student about proper room maintenance if such incidences occur.
10. Keep meals simple and plan in advance!
In our household, students are responsible for making their own breakfast, lunch, and snacks. I tell them what’s available and where, and I’ll ask what they enjoy eating and pick up some of their preferred items. I always plan dinner in advance and keep it simple in order to save my sanity. A note: if you go out for dinner you are expected to pay for your student (or at least with all the agencies I know of).
11. Deal with conflict immediately, and don’t be afraid to enlist help
(okay I lied, I have 11 tips!)
Conflict is bound to happen, and it’s best to deal with it immediately. First talk to your student openly, and most importantly, without confrontation. It could just be a cultural misunderstanding. If the behaviour persists, it might be time to talk to the students’ school or agency.
If you have any questions I’m happy to help! And if you’ve hosted students before I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips! After all, we’re diving into this crazy wonderful world again next month!