Opening your home to a foreign exchange student can be a valuable and enriching experience, for both student and host. You will be supporting an individual in their learning and, in turn, creating the opportunity for your family to learn more about another’s home, culture and language.
How to be a good host
The basics of being a good host are simple: students choose homestays to learn more about everyday life in your country, so you should strive to provide a warm welcome and treat them like family as much as possible.
Who makes a good host?
Almost anyone can be a good host. LSI homestay hosts currently include retired couples, families with children, single people and professional couples; the common denominator is the willingness to provide a warm, homely environment.
Beyond the basics, we have some guidelines and top tips for hosting students:
Initially, try to rid your mind of all existing knowledge about your home and local area, and think about what you would need to know if you were arriving for the first time.
Give a tour of the entire house, not only their bedroom and bathroom. Let them to know where to find specific items they may need such as extra towels or snacks.
Clarifying simple things can put them at ease, such as where do you hang your coat? Shoes on or off in the house? How would you get to school and travel around the area? Is there a local bus route?
Be clear on any expectations or house rules from the outset, to avoid ill feeling as the stay progresses.
Bedrooms for students should have all the essentials, including a mirror and appropriate storage. A desk or table for studying should be provided where possible.
Make sure the room is clean and uncluttered with space for them to unpack and relax. You may want to include a plant and lamp to create a welcoming atmosphere.
Students should be able to close (and ideally lock or bolt) the door of their room to give them a measure of security and privacy.
Food glorious food
Host stays are chosen if students want to experience home life, so they should be invited to eat with you and your family as often as possible.
A good, substantial breakfast is key to a productive day. Evening meals should be varied and well balanced and students should try to fit in with your mealtimes, but some flexibility may be required. Students are expected to let you know if they intend to miss a meal or eat later etc.
Clearly explain to students any special safety rules that you may have in your home. The use of electrical/gas equipment, fire precautions, and safety should be explained fully.
While students are often out of the house for most of the day studying or seeing the sights, they will typically be around in the evening. This can lead to your personal space not always feeling like your own.
You will need to be aware of and respect the student’s cultural background and be sensitive to their particular needs, even if they differ to your own.
Depending on the age of your student, you may be expected to support with after-school activities such as clubs and sports.
Students pay accommodation costs directly to the LSI school where they are studying. LSI then remunerates the homestay hosts.
We believe it’s key to happy and warm relationship that students feel integrated into the family rather than being seen as paying guests. By removing direct financial contact it removes possible sources of tension, conflict and alienation.
While you may get paid for hosting, remember that you might also be expected to pay for additional expenses during their stay like groceries and transport.
Find out more about the responsibilities of host families in this Porch blog post that LSI also contributed to.
You can read more about LSI’s hosting, placements and screening process here.