The Ultimate Pros and Cons of a Homestay Abroad

by Published

Staying in a homestay abroad might sound like it encompasses everything you’ve ever striven for in life: a unique and beautiful home that you don’t have to make a mortgage payment on, siblings that adore you and don’t pick fights over stupid stuff, and having a pseudo-personal chef at your disposal. Basically you want to live in a Mary Kate and Ashley movie (don’t we all…). The good news is that MOST of this is true when it comes to doing a homestay abroad. The bad news is that there’s also the possibility of none of this being true. Cue unsettled, foreshadowing background music...

We’ve all heard the study abroad host family horror stories, and whether it be the house not exactly being your ideal living situation or the family itself not living up to your expectations, there’s a lot that you can’t control when living with strangers. So, how do you see through the potential for a bad situation and have hope that a homestay will be just as awesome as you want it to be? Just like any mature adult (of which we’re not but can pretend), you weigh the good with the bad and make an informed decision!

Sounds like a lot of work, but don’t worry, team GoAbroad is here to help! Introducing: the ultimate pro/con list of doing a homestay abroad!

posing with host sister

Best case (and most likely) scenario, you get a whole new family to laugh and have fun with!

Pros of doing a homestay program abroad

To say that we had a hard time narrowing down this list would be an understatement, as there are just SO. MANY. PROS. of doing a homestay abroad, especially a study abroad homestay. Check out our top ones below!

You will develop a second family and have lifelong connections (the biggest pro of all!!). How could you not have a lifelong bond with the people who were there for your entire experience abroad? Nobody else but them will truly understand what you experienced.

Your language skills will skyrocket. WE PROMISE. Living with a local family means you won’t have an “English escape” at the end of the day, so your language skills will constantly evolve without you even noticing. Why sit in a boring classroom studying flashcards when you could learn the same vocabulary by binging on Netflix auf Deutsch with your host brother?

[Get matched with study abroad homestay programs]

You will start to like foods that you otherwise wouldn’t have tried if you hadn’t lived with locals. We know that haggis might sound gross, but the way your host dad cooks it will forever change your opinion!

You’ll develop a firmer grasp of the local culture, history, and politics by having a family to engage with and ask questions. No judgement at home for not knowing something!

Homestays are generally cheaper because they are usually all-inclusive with meals, lodging, laundry, and some type of cleaning service bundled together, you’ll most likely save a good deal of money with this route. Particularly homestay study abroad programs will definitely run cheaper!

You will get to experience celebrations, holidays, and festivals with your family and participate in local traditions. Did you even study abroad in a foreign country if you didn’t learn how to sing “Happy Birthday” in their language?

There will be a “friendly face” waiting for you when you arrive. Having a dedicated family ready to help you settle in will speed up the assimilation process, and just make you feel more at home overall!

neighborhood from above in Istanbul, Turkey

No matter what home looks like abroad, you know you have one, and that’s always comforting.

[Save and compare homestay abroad programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad]

You’ll make a lot of new friends through your host siblings. Nothing beats getting an instant friend group with relatively no effort! 

You will have advocates beyond your program directors. Living in a new country comes with some challenges, and having host parents to help you navigate through these challenges can really come in handy...especially when you’re to unknowingly do something stupid and your host mom whips you into “local” shape. Gracias, mama!

Cons of doing a homestay program abroad

Homestay programs don’t always turn into host family horror stories, but sometimes they do…

You might get a host sibling who starts crushing on you. Eww. 

You might start crushing on your host sibling. Only an eww if they don’t like you back. But, also, generally an oh-no-no. 

Your host parent(s) might be the worst cooks. Sorry in advance for all of the burnt pork chops you’ll have to pretend to like. We can’t all be winners.

You might be placed in one of those rare families that views it like a business transaction. Some families have visitors filter through their homes every semester to make some side money, and don’t really view their host students as part of the family but rather as tenants. Make the most of it and enjoy the fact that you won’t have host parents breathing down your neck at all times. Can’t get grounded if your parents don’t care! (Probably someone’s famous last words)

woman playing with host sister in park

Worried interacting with locals? Homestays make it easy. We guarantee you’ll have fun playing with your host sibs.

[Breaking the Ice: How to Make the Most of Your Homestay Abroad]

On the flip side, you could be the first person that the family has hosted, and they could be just as excited (ie overbearing) as your real parents. Because you’re living in someone’s home, you have to respect their rules and expectations. It’s up to you to decide if you’d rather make your own way while abroad!

Your host sister might think the Macarena is the best song and blast it 24/7. Invest in some ear plugs.

You (probably) can’t keep alcohol in your room like you could if you lived in an apartment or dorm. Unless you get one of those cool moms like Regina George’s who’d rather you drank in the house.

Speaking of booze, you will most likely run into your host parents at some point when you’re out at a bar with your new friends, or when you’re coming home from the bar as they’re leaving for work. Yes, it will be awkward, but it’ll give you something to laugh when the hangover dies off!

You just might not like them. You can’t pick your family, and you (usually) can’t pick your host family, either. You’re basically in the same situation as getting randomly selected with your freshman year roommate: you close your eyes, hold your nose, and hope for the best.

[Living with a Host Family: Homestays 101]

family outing and picnic at an old barn

Your homestay family will show you their favorite parts of home and their culture. What more could you ask for?!

A handful of recommended homestay abroad programs

In today’s world of meaningful travel becoming so important, the good news is that almost every abroad program offers homestay accommodation options. Especially in the study abroad world, the likelihood of doing a homestay study abroad program is huge. Here are some of our favorites to help you narrow it down!

1. Academic Programs International

One of the leading study, teach, intern, and volunteer abroad program providers, API offers program options in 29 countries in Europe, Asia, North America, and South America. Because they are such experts in the meaningful travel world, API focuses on homestay experiences and increasing immersion while abroad. Almost all of their programs offer homestays as their only accommodation option, so they definitely know what they’re doing when it comes to integrating into the local community!

Related: Read Reviews |

2. CISabroad

Whether you want to study abroad, intern abroad, or participate in a shorter winter or summer study abroad program, CISabroad has you covered! With super affordable programs in 26 countries across six continents, this provider has it all. CISabroad’s mission is to develop more engaged world citizens, so naturally their homestay options are solid and work to really immerse their students in the host community.

Related: Read Reviews |

3. IES Abroad

For over 65 years, IES Abroad has sent over 6,000 meaningful travelers each year to their 30+ locations to study and intern abroad. Their main goal is to both recruit students from diverse backgrounds and help them pay for international experiences, so they pledge more than $4 million in scholarships every year and work to ensure each program is diverse and meaningful. It’s definitely fitting that they push homestay accommodation options for their participants!

Related: Read Reviews |

4. American Institute for Foreign Study

Since 1964, AIFS has been a powerhouse in the world of meaningful travel and sent more than one million students abroad. With study, intern, volunteer, travel, and gap year programs abroad in 23 countries, AIFS means business. It should come as no surprise that they really push the homestay accommodations, and provide their participants with awesome local options and a ton of ways to integrate while abroad.

Related: Read Reviews |

neighborhood in Reykjavik, iceland

You can’t always choose your family… but in this case… you sort of can.

Skip the study abroad host family horror stories

Ultimately, doing a homestay is the best option for those looking to improve their language skills, become immersed in a new culture, and make lifelong friends and connections. There are very few actual homestay horror stories that meaningful travelers encounter, so there really isn’t a reason to be concerned anything. Most program providers work very hard to vet their host families and want to offer the best experience possible. So, skip the study abroad host family horror stories, sign up for a homestay program, and see for yourself just how awesome it is! 

Find study abroad homestay programs today!