Homestays can be amazing and deeply immersive cultural experiences, but they are oftentimes hailed in such a cheesy, positive light that it can be difficult to find honesty about them. You are stuck with this housing situation for the duration of your time abroad, so it’s important to also consider looking at it from a similar perspective of getting a random roommate during freshman year of college. You might get lucky with an amazing one, but even if you don’t wind up with a nightmare situation, you definitely know someone who has. So, here are four downsides of a homestay to consider before going abroad.
1. You may lose some of your independence
This isn’t inherently a bad thing. Due to the arrangements, host families are usually supposed to provide you your meals and do your laundry. To many people that sounds heavenly. But, it also means that you often can’t decide your meals for yourself and laundry gets done at the family’s pace, and potentially not when you really need it. If you’re someone who hates having others do this type of work for you, you should think about how you might be sacrificing some of that.
© Jennifer Wankmuller
2. You may lose some of your privacy
You’re living in someone else’s house and different cultures have different ideas of privacy, meaning that your host family may have no qualms about going into your room and rearranging your stuff. You shouldn’t fear things being stolen the way you might with a freshman-year roommate, as that’s highly unlikely. But they may touch your stuff more than you’re comfortable with, and potentially even go through it. Those boundaries can be difficult to set, but something you should be prepared to have to do.
3. You might clash with your hosts
Much like with a freshman-year roommate, you might just be completely incompatible with your hosts. Living with other people under boundaries you’re not used to can be quite stressful on both sides, and that can lead to arguments. Those arguments might ultimately fix things, or they may not. There are no guarantees. You shouldn’t go into a homestay with the mentality that all will go smoothly. You need to realize that may be rough at times, but the overall experience might be incredibly worth it to you.
© Jennifer Wankmuller
4. You might not learn much in the end
If all of the above sound like they could easily be problems for you, then you won’t end up getting the cultural immersion from your homestay, which is the main reason everyone tells you to do it. If you don’t get along with them, you’re likely going to end up avoiding them. So then you explore the culture in other ways. You’ll meet people at classes or work and get to go out and have great experiences with them. While a homestay certainly can enhance cultural immersion, it isn’t the only means of achieving it, and you ultimately need to pick the housing option that’s best for you.
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Cover photo © Jennifer Wankmuller