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Host families come in all shapes and sizes so there is no one description that will apply to all. While there are some "conventional" family models with a mom, dad and children, many host families are single adults (females only), older couples or single parents (mothers only). While the family make-up may vary, what they all have in common is their desire to open their home to you and share their local culture.
Summer teen programs are usually very busy and your host family will understand if you aren't home much. If, however, you want to spend as much time as you can with your hosts let them know. They might be expecting that you'll want to hang out with other participants and they'll be thrilled that you want to spend time with them. But, remember that host families have lives they have to maintain, so don't expect that every free day will be spent touring the city or going somewhere special. You may find yourself grocery shopping or going together to the market or having tea with friends or family who stop by. It may not sound terribly exciting, but it is part of the experience!
Not necessarily! In smaller communities you are more likely to have hosts who are native speakers of the target language but in larger urban centres, many families that host international students are immigrants and, although they fluently speak the language you are learning, they are not native speakers of the language. If you are placed with a family who are not native speakers don't feel disappointed. These families are often culturally sensitive to the challenges of adapting to a new place. In addition, you are being exposed to the target language in a variety of ways and this will particularly help with your listening skills.
Decor and room amenities vary from home to home from elaborate to very basic. You can expect your room to be clean and comfortable and to have one single bed per person, a dresser and/or wardrobe, a desk and a chair. Many homestay programs are shared rooms so you will have another student from the program as a roommate. In most cases you will be sharing the washroom(s)/toilet(s) and the rest of the common areas (living room, kitchen and dinning room) with the family. If you have your own washroom/toilet at home you'll have to get used to sharing with others so make sure you check with your hosts about the best time to take a shower/have a bath.
You will have breakfast and dinner everyday with your host family (the Mature Teen Residence/Homestay Program in Berlin is an exception to this). Breakfast is usually toast or bread and cereal with juice, coffee and tea. It is typically self-serve and not usually a meal that the family sits down to. Dinner is a full meal that you will share with the family and it will often reflect the local cuisine and cooking customs. Lunch can be a bagged lunch (sandwich and fruit), a cafeteria meal or a meal in a local restaurant. This depends on the program and what meal option you choose. Specific details about meals can be found on the overview page for each program.
You can expect that your hosts will serve you well-balanced and nutritious meals. But keep in mind that what you and your family at home consider nutritious may not be the same for your hosts. You don't have to like everything that your hosts prepare but if you are enrolled in a homestay program you are expected to try what is prepared for you and have an open mind to the local food customs. If you have special dietary needs (allergies, restrictions, etc.) please share them with us at the time of booking so we can place you with a family that can accommodate your requirements.
Most homestay accommodation is between 15 and 45 minutes from school on foot, by bicycle or on public transit (bus, train or metro). The exception to this is the Teen Homestay Program in Costa Rica where a private shuttle transfers students between their host family and school/activities/excursions. Very few host families live within walking distance of the school so you should be prepared to take public transit. On your first day, your hosts will make sure you know how to get to and from school. It usually only takes a few days to master the route but at some point during your stay you may experience missing a connection or catching the wrong bus. Because of this, we recommend that you always travel with both the school emergency number and the home number of your hosts. This is nothing to panic about but it is something you should be prepared for.
If you have any concerns about your homestay placement you need to communicate this to staff right away. In 99% of cases, any odd or awkward feelings pass within the first 24 to 48 hours once you get over your jet lag and culture shock and get to the know the family. If these feelings linger, however, staff need to know so they can help you deal with your concerns.
Cultural misunderstanding is the number one cause of problems and staff are experienced in helping you and your host family overcome any misunderstandings or confusion. In the unlikely event, however, that the problems go beyond cultural issues staff will look at the possibility of changing host families. Please keep in mind that during the busy summer months many of our partner schools are at full capacity and their best host families are fully booked for the summer so change may not always be possible or for the better. Your best bet is to arrive with an open mind and a willingness to experience new things. And remember, things may not be what you are used to at home but that's the whole point of an immersion program! If you can suspend judgment you are likely to have a great time and will be genuinely sad to say goodbye once it's time to go.
Questions about homestay accommodation? Call us toll-free on 1 888 386 1411