Why You Should Live With a Host Family While Studying Abroad

by Sara Vazquez Shaw

When you're studying abroad, especially if it's your first time away from home for an extended period of time, your experience can be extremely exciting but also mixed with a lot of anxiety. A new level of independence, unfamiliar surroundings, a different culture, perhaps a new language - all of these things can start to feel somewhat isolating and overwhelming after the initial novelty begins to wear off. Of course, even if homesickness and doubt starts to creep in once you've gotten settled in, it's unlikely that you can just turn around and head back home. You've made a big commitment and investment and it can't be sloughed off so easily.

To help avoid the understandable feelings of panic that threaten to overtake your emotions once you've landed in your country of study, opt to stay with a host family who can help you adjust to your new surroundings and stave off any fleeting desire to hop back on the plane and go home.

Here are few things that a host family can offer to help you feel more at ease on your study abroad adventure:

A Sense of Routine

Being so far away from home and living in a foreign country may throw your sense of order and control a little out of whack. You may struggle with creating a routine for yourself, since it definitely takes time to get acclimated to your new surroundings. Living with a host family can shorten the learning curve and give you a sense of belonging before you start to feel lost. Being able to watch your host family's daily routine can be a comforting and soothing reminder of home and that gets you through the pangs of loneliness and homesickness.

A Glimpse into the Everyday Lifestyle of Another Culture

When you visit other countries as a tourist, you often only get to see the popular highlights of the places you visit. Experiencing the a country as a visitor can be fun and interesting, but having a host family can help you make studying abroad a more deeply satisfying experience and leave you with some incredible memories. Your host family wants you to have a good time, and in most cases will work hard to make sure that you get to see what real, everyday life in their country is like, off the beaten tourist path.

Advanced Language Skills Practice

If you live in a dorm with other British students and you're studying abroad in a country where English is not the first language, you may be hesitant to explore the country freely and connect with the nationals. If you live with a host family, you have an opportunity on a daily basis to be completely immersed in the language. Such a consistent, concentrated exposure will surely increase your fluency by leaps and bounds.

Lifelong Friendships

Staying with a host family makes the study abroad experience much more than just a school exchange program. For nine months to a year, you're living side by side with a group of people who have opened their home to you and agreed to share their way of life with you on a daily basis. For most students, the relationships that they build with their host family, and the people that they meet through their host family, last far longer than the year they spend in the country. Many students come to think of their host family as an extension of their own family and they keep in touch with these people for the rest of their lives.