Tips to Hosting an International Student - The first few weeks

It’s not unusual for the first couple of weeks to be challenging and these pointers may help you realise that it’s okay if things are a little rocky at first. Sometimes a family may even find that homestay is not what they expected or that it is not for them. Be aware of your expectations and whilst you will need to be flexible, you will also need to be sure of what you are not prepared to compromise on. Communication is the key to any successful relationship, so remember to communicate with your homestay student, especially if issues arise. Happy homestay!

The first few weeks

Your student will experience a considerable amount of culture shock when they first arrive. Everything will be very different from what they are used to and they may seem a little shy or nervous. In the first few days they may not answer your questions or talk very much. Likewise, it may take you a while to adjust to having a new member of the household with different habits, expectations and ways of doing things. The first thing to remember when you meet your student is that each student is unique. Even if you have hosted before, you may need to learn new ways of dealing with each person. It is essential to remember that communication is the key to a successful homestay so start talking, asking questions, and encourage them to do the same.

Culture shock may manifest itself physically in the student to varying degrees. Symptoms may include lethargy, sleeplessness, depression and anxiety and they may shut themselves in their rooms. This may resolve itself in time, however it helps to talk to your student about their feelings, their impressions and encourage them to go out and about so they can feel more in control of their environment. If you are really concerned that they are not coping, talk to the homestay coordinator and they may organise counselling.

"I worry about students who spend too much time on their own. Some students would come home, go straight to their room, come out for a meal, and go straight back into their room and not engage at all. We really appreciate time spent talking at dinner because it gives you a chance to get to know them better, pick up on things that have happened during the day. But you have to allow for their adjustment time as well, so you don’t want to force it too much. I suppose that longer-term students can be more rewarding for the family in this respect because they have time to get over that culture shock and settle in and you get to enjoy the good times together." Kristine, homestay mother
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