Students who live in English-speaking host families learn English and adjust to their new culture fairly quickly. They generally have a more positive studying abroad experience and have an easier time making friendships in the US and many other countries.
Living with other people from your home country is comfortable and easy, but you tend to stick together and speak only in your native language. You will probably end up watching movies and TV shows and listening to music from your native country, have fewer authentic cultural experiences, and make much slower progress in language learning.
Let’s look at the major benefits of living with a host family in the US or whatever country you choose for your study abroad experience.
1. First and foremost, language learning!
The best way to learn another language is to be fully immersed in it. Hearing everyday conversation spoken by native speakers is the fastest and most effective way to develop understanding and fluency. In the classroom, students have fewer opportunities to speak and have less natural conversations than they will at home. The home and other cultural context provides circumstances where you're obligated to communicate authentically. The need to be understood is a strong motivation to improve. If your pronunciation isn't clear, you have to try again until you're clear enough to be understood.
Living with a host family is also the best way to learn good pronunciation because you hear models of correct pronunciation.
- An English-speaking host family provides opportunity to hear English many hours a day and helps you develop your “ear” for the language. By hearing natural language patterns repeated in conversational contexts over and over, you develop a sense of what is correct.
- Knowing what sounds right is essential to true fluency because no one has time to think through grammar rules in the midst of a conversation.
- Students who live with families and speak English at home learn much faster, understand much more, and speak with more accurate grammar and natural pronunciation. More listening leads to more understanding; more understanding leads to more practice speaking; and more speaking leads to more fluency.
In this way, host family members naturally help you practice and refine your pronunciation. You are practicing in context versus a classroom lesson where it may not be relevant and may be quickly forgotten. You also avoid spending too much time among non-native speakers where English pronunciation errors are common.
2. Cultural Knowledge – An Inside View of American Life:
Local host families can introduce you to and advise you about many different aspects of life in your new country.
They can teach the finer points of the language such as: slang (everyday informal language), where to shop, great local places to visit or eat, local music, information related to school and college, and even local humor! Host families can take you to visit places and take part in events that you would not otherwise know about or experience. Many students also enjoy taking part in activities with their host families, like:
- Walks in the neighborhood
- Weekend hikes and day trips to nearby attractions
- Playing games, watching movies and TV together
- Conversations with native speaking friends and family who visit
All of our host families have been vetted and are completely trustworthy and dedicated to creating a loving environment for international students. Host families live in safe neighborhoods and will be able to advise you on how to stay safe in their town and in day to day life. Everyone who lives in the house must pass a background check, and the homestay program manager checks in with students and host families regularly.
4. School Choice:
Some students may desire to live with or a near a relative. This has obvious benefits but will limit the number of schools from which to choose. Living with a local host family opens up a world of school choices in order to find the one that best suits your interests and needs. This is preferable to being limited to only one or two schools located near relatives.
5. Personal Space and Quiet:
Students typically have their own bedroom and their privacy is respected. This is not always the case when you choose to live with relatives or in a dormatory. This does not mean you will be isolated! Students eat and sometimes even prepare meals with the host family and join them for day to day activities and routines.
6. More Time for Studies & Learning Experiences:
Students living with host families are not required to take care of children or work in the family business. This is often the case when living with relatives in the US which can interfere with their studies and with opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities.
7. Cultural Exchange – Teaching Americans about Your Country:
Host families may not know much about what life is like in your country, but they are open and curious to learn more. Hosting a foreign student in their home is an adventure for the whole family as you share your native culture with them. A Host Family will give you first-hand knowledge of interesting norms in American culture. What clothing do they wear? Why do people have certain sayings?
Host families also have firsthand knowledge of what life is like, and many are experienced at hosting students so they know what to expect from you. Having someone to talk to whom you trust allows you to share your curiosity and helps eliminate the embarrassment of asking questions.
8. Gain a new Family
Every international student experiences some pain of homesickness as they adjust to their new life. Some students find boarding schools very impersonal, and it is hard to get the personalized attention you truly need. A host family deeply cares for you. Very often meaningful, life-long relationships are formed.
9. Enjoy Local Cuisine
What can beat an amazing home-cooked meal? Not only will you experience the tastes of genuine local food, typical American families have very diverse menus! They will cook a variety of meals with many cultural and ethnic influences. You can also get the chance to show them your favorite foods and enjoy all that your culture has to offer!
Overall, living with a Host Family is an incredibly enriching and engaging experience that will make your study abroad experience all the more rewarding.