Requirements to Host an International Student - Part II; The Home
So you’ve got some extra space in your home and you’re thinking about filling it with an international student. Maybe it’s a room that’s not being used or a spot where you’ve been putting junk and stuff you don’t quite have a place for; or, a lonely bedroom once occupied by your college kid. While it’s not recommended that “filling space” be your motivation to become a host family, having enough room for a student is foundational to getting into the hosting game. Before you finally part with that stair-stepper you haven’t used since the 90’s, your college wardrobe and that antique sewing machine you still swear you’re going to master, conduct an inventory of your spare room to ensure it’s adequate for hosting.
A reputable international student agency is going to inspect your home for safety. It’s required by the US State Dept., which sets guidelines for student visitor programs, that this be done to certain exacting standards. Student safety is the paramount consideration for a lot of obvious reasons (preventing international incidents is somewhere high on that list). This process begins with qualifying the bedroom.
Regardless of your state’s fire codes and descriptions of a legal bedroom, it must have 2 egresses: one directly to the outside (a door or window large enough and accessible enough to exit), and another into the house (a bedroom doorway). As obvious as this is, some folks still think that tiny basement window tucked up against the ceiling is plenty big enough to wiggle through in an emergency. While this may be true if a person is sufficiently motivated (and tiny) to do so, these windows are high and aren’t designed to open all the way. So, no.
Others have suggested that the door leading to the storage area leading to the bulkhead is a quick exit in case of emergency. Maybe so, but in a fire it’s easy to become disoriented and visibility is often compromised. Sorry, but that’s a “no” too.
Does size matter?
Every teenager I know wants a bigger bedroom. It doesn’t matter how big theirs is, they’ll find some way to fill it and want more. A double-queen suite at the Marriott is a bit much and jail-cell isn’t the effect we’re going for either. A “6 by 9” shouldn’t be your starting criteria for adequate bedroom space. A bedroom needs enough floor space to fit a twin bed, a chest of 3 drawers, and a desk with the capability of its occupant to do more than inhale. There has to be space to get dressed and walk around the bed without turning sideways or crashing into furniture on a nocturnal bathroom run.
Setting minimum square footage is a bit subjective and having a slope-wall can be a factor in determining functionality. Suffice to say that 8’ x 10’ with 4 vertical walls is a good start. Oh, and you’re going to need at least 3’ of the closet too.
A flat-screen TV and dumb-waiter are surely bedroom luxuries. In some areas of the country, the same can be said for air-conditioning. Where you live will have an impact on what bedroom provisions are considered a necessity. Nobody is going to insist a host family in San Diego have built-in baseboard heat any more than a Boston bedroom has central air. At the very least a bedroom must have adequate lighting and electricity capable of handling a space heater or a fan.
Honestly, your student probably won’t notice mild swings in temperature that can’t be mitigated by opening or closing a window or changing sleeve and pant length. Humans are pretty adaptable through clothing choices. What students will notice is the quality (speed) of your internet. A lousy or slow connection has the greatest potential to heat up or put a chill on your relationship far more than the ambient temperature in your home.
You don’t have to live in the shadow of a student’s school, but it helps. Living far away from school is not a disqualifier. However, distance = time and unless you live in utter opulence or there’s something catchy about where you live, it will be difficult to lure a student into your lair outside of a 20-minute commute to school.
Students can have some individual or cultural quirks that make your home ill-suited for them. These things are impossible to know in advance. You are who you are and your home is what it is. The best advice is to make sure your profile and photos represent your home and family in the best possible light. Students want most of all to feel safe and welcome in their homestay. Creature comforts are a distant second behind a fabulous host family