Homestay vs. Student Housing: Pros and Cons

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Our Guest Blogger is Emma, one of our great tutors!  

Studying abroad is a big decision to make in your school years. It is an opportunity to broaden your horizons by adopting a different culture, lifestyle, and maybe even a different language for an extended period of time. Most people might not think about where they want to live aside from a specific city, but there are two options for many people studying abroad: will you live in a homestay with a local family, or will you live with other exchange students in a shared flat or apartment? Many study abroad programs offer options for both. Here are some differences that can help you make your decision:

Some benefits of living with a host family is that you will get more opportunities to converse in the foreign language. When you are sharing your home and dinner table with locals, you will be forced to speak their language to them. Although it may sound daunting at first, your conversational skills will improve immensely and quickly from all of the practice.

Many programs that place you in a homestay include dinners with the family. This not only means never having to worry about what you’re eating for dinner, but also means you will get home-cooked meals that are authentic to local cuisine. One thing to take into account with this, however, is that you will be committing to eat the same food at the same time as the host family. When I lived with a host family in Spain, I had to get used to eating at 10:00 pm—something that was very difficult at first! But I enjoyed the opportunity for home-cooked meals regardless of the hour, and it gave me the opportunity to bond with my host family and their dog.

Simply by living with a local family, you will be able to adapt more easily into the lifestyle of the city in which you are studying. When you are doing things on the schedule of the local people and living in the same building as other locals, you begin to feel like one! The fact that you will most likely live away from other students and friends studying abroad, although seemingly a bad thing, can actually force you to become an expert at navigating the new city and lead you to discover new places to meet.

Although I ended up loving my homestay, not everyone has as wonderful of an experience as me. For those who think a homestay just isn’t for them, there are many programs that let you live with other students, either in dorms on campus or student apartments in the city.

Living in student housing or shared apartments might make you feel more independent. You will be able to eat what and when you prefer without having to wait for a host family. Especially if you are accustomed to living away from your family in your own country, this option might make you feel more comfortable. Your level of autonomy will definitely increase by living with roommates instead of a family.

Another benefit is that you can meet other exchange students more easily in the student housing. You will be closer to each other (and usually closer to campus) so it will be easier to make plans to explore the city in groups. It might be more difficult to meet locals when you are surrounded by other exchange students like yourself, but it simply forces you to be more outgoing in order to make friends with other locals.

Any decision to study abroad is a good decision in my opinion. Whether you end up in a homestay (like I did!) or living with other students, you will have an amazing and unforgettable experience!

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