by HENRIETTE FREESE
Travelling to another country to study abroad is an exciting but also intimidating experience. You are traveling to an unknown city, without your friends and don’t know what to expect. Comfortable accommodation is one of the most important things to make you feel at home while you’re abroad.
Many of our students choose to stay with a host family during their time studying English in Vancouver. Choosing this type of accommodation helps them to fully immerse themselves in Canadian culture and practice English outside the classroom. Students particularly enjoy the fact that they have family members to interact with, that they don’t need to worry about cooking, that they can learn a lot about new cultures and that they can practice and improve their English in a safe environment.
If you have chosen homestay accommodation and are getting ready for your program, please read on for some essential tips for a great homestay experience!
1 – Embrace the difference!
By living with another family you will quickly see that everything will be different to what you know from your home – not better, not worse, just different. This is part of your cultural experience. Vancouver is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and our host families come from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Take this opportunity to learn more about the new culture and teach them something about yours as well.
“It is a great experience because you know different ways to live and you learn about different cultures around the world.”
As different as the ethnic backgrounds can be, the family structures can vary a lot as well. There are one parent families, retired couples, one parent working and the other staying at home with the children, couples with one or many children or adults without any children. Be open to new circumstances and enjoy the new experience that might be very different to what you are used to at home.
2 – Don’t be shy!
We know that the first moments and days with your new family can be a little intimidating or even a bit awkward. You do not know their customs or rituals yet and might feel insecure in your new environment. It is easy to just quietly sit in your room or at the dinner table with minimal conversation, but we encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try to get to know them. If the family invites you to join an activity take the opportunity and do so. If they ask you about your day take every chance to practice your English. All of our families enjoy hosting international students and want to make sure that you have a great time in Vancouver!
“I can share the way to live and learn so many different culture language and places. My host family is very attentive they help us to speak better and they always encourage us to speak.”
3 – Respect the house rules.
While it’s important and positive to feel like a member of the family and to feel comfortable, like at home, always remember that you are a guest as well. Make sure to keep your room tidy, respect house rules and bathroom times and clean up after yourself in the kitchen. If you are a minor student and are given a curfew by your host family, respect the times as they are responsible for you while you are in Canada. If a family has specific times for dinner, please respect them and inform them early if you’re unable to join due to an activity. If you want to have a friend over for a visit, always ask for permission.
4 – Be open to trying new foods.
Chances are high that your family will have a different diet to what you are used to from home. This is also one of the greatest differences our students observe when they tell us about their homestay experience. In Canada breakfast is also often the smallest meal of the day while dinner is the biggest. This is all part of your cultural experience and one of the many reasons why you chose to study abroad. It all helps you to learn about and understand different cultures better.
5 – Communicate.
Feel free to ask your host family at any time where to find or how to do certain things. Don’t assume that things might be done in a certain way just because it’s how you do it at home or maybe because you haven’t understood them properly. Your family knows that you are here to learn English and you do not need to be afraid to bring certain things up. Communication is the key to a successful relationship with your family.
VGC is here to help.
Always remember that we want you to have the best possible time here in Vancouver! If you have a problem, talk to your homestay first. In many cases things are just misunderstandings. If you feel uncomfortable talking to them or can’t solve an issue, you can always talk to our homestay department, we will be happy to help you![custom_author=Henriette Freese]