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Hosting International Students - Life as a Homestay Host Family for Foreign Students

Updated on June 18, 2011

A fascinating journey

If you are reading this, would I be correct to assume that you are either interested in becoming a Homestay Host or you already are one, perhaps you are keen to know how other Homestay Hosts manage the various issues they face performing this role? This hub, Hosting International Students - Homestay Host Family for Foreign Students, is a follow-up on my first on this series: Become a Homestay Host Family - Make Money from Your House. Check it out if you are considering being a Homestay Host, it will give you insight on the incredible benefits, financial and otherwise, that come with the role and a quick overview of our experience of the past three years.You will discover that this is one of the real ways to make money, no kidding, if this is what you are looking for.

This hub focuses more in-depth on the real issues my husband and I faced as homestay parents and the ensuing resolutions we arrived at.

It is my hope that this hub will shed some light on how it is to be a Homestay Host Family and find assistance in some way to decide if this is the route for you in relations to enhancing your financial position as well.

Our position as Homestay Parents is from the viewpoint of ensuring each and every student who come through our door is regarded like a family member, is part of our little community and is treated with kindness and respect.


Life as a Homestay Host Family - an introduction to running a successful homestay

1. Arrival

These high school international students generally arrive from overseas anywhere between one day to a week before school term in Australia starts, which then gives them some time to settle into a routine of some sort with us. Some of the students arrive with very basic knowledge of the English language. The main mode of communication then is either using a foreign language dictionary or by simply pointing at things in hope that they understand what we are trying to communicate to them. This sometimes end up in hysterics as both parties struggle to understand the other!

We would introduce them to our home - their bedrooms, the common living areas and the essential bathroom. After they have unpacked and rested, we would explain the general house rules to the students, while working with them to get organised for school in the coming week.


2. Settling In

The average age of students coming to live in our home is 16 years. Having said that, we do have foreign students as young as 14 years old live with us, whom we found would have more issues settling in than the older students for obvious reasons. These younger students often miss their familiar home surroundings and sometimes be a little homesick. We try to communicate our care for them by spending more time either chatting with them or by being more involved in their hobbies, passions or how they manage their school homework.


3. Culture Shock

Many of these students have never stepped foot outside their own country and some do find find the differences between the two countries a little overwhelming. Combined with the fact that their command of the English language is somewhat lacking, these students need assistance in familiarising themselves to their new environment. We found that etiquettes can be sufficiently different. Therefore, we do ensure that they understand that in Australia, queueing up and giving way is the expected thing. Spitting is a big no-no, saying "Please" and "Thank you" get a big tick, and so forth. Table and bathroom manners can also be a point of contrast, therefore we will go through the rigmarole of explaining the Aussie way.

We ourselves do learn a lot about the other cultures and how things are done in their home country, which then evolves into an interesting discussion for all. Our lives are so much more enriched by having these students around to have ideas exchanged in a friendly manner.


4. Deepening the Relationship

We often insist on the students sticking to a routine with us, that will ensure that they feel part of a family unit. My husband and I are sticklers for these students having dinner with us at the table - it is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to be in tune with the latest happenings with each other as well as for the students to practise their verbal English language.

We encourage our own children to embrace these students' ways of doing things, to be accepting of their culture and differences as well as to include these students in their circle of friends. Admittedly when we were new to hosting homestay students, this concept of tolerance was initially more theory than practical. It took some months of practice before we could work out what was fair to all, what differences can be tolerated and what actions are not acceptable in our home.

Majority of the students are happy to abide by our rules, which I do consider fair and reasonable. For those who continually disregard our authority in our own home, we then have to ask for them to move on to another homestay to put a stop to the friction caused.

Some of our house rules are:

  • Switch off lights after leaving room.
  • Always clean up own mess.
  • Clean up own room once a week.
  • Always inform homestay parents of whereabouts.
  • When going out with friends, must leave names and telephone numbers of friends with homestay parent.
  • Help clear dishes after every meal.
  • Wake up on time for school.
  • Always complete homework as set by school.
  • Bedtime 10.30pm on weekdays, 1:00am latest on weekends.

As a general rule of thumb, we often encourage the students to improve their command of the language by watching English television programmes, especially the News segment, which also helps with increasing knowledge of the world around them. We take great pleasure in seeing them grow in their knowledge of life in Australia but also grow into giving, community-minded people.

We do ask the students to voice out any concerns or issues, so their stay with us is one to be treasured. We place high importance on working together as a team, within the rules of our home.


5. Departure

We do assist the students to book their flights back to their home country for the long summer school holidays at the end of the year. Depending on the age and maturity of the student, we would drive the student to the airport and see them off, wishing them a great time with their family before returning to us the following year. We would also request that the students take home a gift from us to their parents as a token of friendship.




Life as a Homestay Host Family can be busy almost throughout the year. We do not get much of a break or rest as we are expected to provide 3 meals a day 7 days a week. With each new homestay student, there is the ensuring that they understand what our house rules are and that they abide by them.

But overall, we benefit greatly from the pleasure of the company of these students. We learn so much about life and their culture in other countries. We, my family and I, all agree that the experience of being a Homestay Host Family has been one we will always treasure.


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If you gained something from this article then I highly encourage you to forward this page on to a friend or family member whom you think might benefit from it. I look foward to hearing from you should you have any comments or thoughts.

Famous quotes on Tolerance

I have included the quotes as I felt that tolerance is the key to running a successful homestay. As you will have people from other cultures and beliefs living under your roof, it is important for all to try to live in harmony. It is when you have achieved that, that you will have that positive feeling that you have arrived!

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. - Friedrich Nietzsche

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority. - Ralph W. Sockman

Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach. - Tom Robbins

This is the final test of a gentleman: his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him - William Lyon Phelps



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    • May PL profile image

      May PL 6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      No probs. My pleasure!

    • profile image

      Carrie 6 years ago

      Thanks for explaining it so well.