A Homestay is a wonderful experience for international students to live with real local families and experience the local culture first-hand.
What are the benefits of a Homestay?
For international students, a homestay is often the most affordable and rewarding option when traveling abroad. Students forge lasting friendships with their hosts, and develop a much stronger understanding of the culture in which they are immersed than if they were to find an apartment or roommate on their own. Living in a homestay also forces international students to practice the local language, and language-learners have found that this immersive experience is the most valuable tool to developing new language skills.
What does the price include?
The Homestay price depends on your location, program, and amenities. In additional to paying your Host Family, the price also goes towards covering the cost of processing applications and payments, preparing files and orientation materials, carefully matching students with their host family, recruiting and maintaining hosts, licensing, website management, and all other administrative overhead.
What is the Reservation Fee?
The one time, nonrefundable $150 reservation fee is charged when you place the initial reservation. This ensures that all students who place a reservation are serious in their intent of staying with one of our host families, and it covers any work that we may have done on a student’s placement should they decide to cancel.
Why do I need to send my flight information if I am not getting an airport pickup through Sara's homestay?
We like to make sure that our Host Families are prepared to welcome all of our students. In order to do this properly, they must know what time to expect your arrival. If they do not have this information, we cannot expect them to wait around all day for you to show up at their house, especially since students do occasionally miss their flights. Sometimes hosts have to change around their work schedules to make sure that they can be home to greet you, so this information should be provided to us at least two weeks prior to your arrival. It is also important that we have your precise flight information so that our hosts can track your flight to make sure that there are no delays.
Can two people live in the same room?
Yes, but only if they are traveling together. If two people are traveling together, we can provide homestays with either two twin beds or a double or Queen-size bed for couples. This is a lower rate per person.
How does Sara's Homestay choose its hosts?
Each homestay is different. Just like every family is different, so is the makeup of all of our homestays. Some are nuclear families, while others are single professionals. Some are retired empty-nesters, while others have many children living at home. Regardless of the family makeup, we choose our hosts on four main criteria:
Location: We only use hosts that live in convenient locations to the schools (usually by public transportation), and that are located in safe neighborhoods.
Warm Hospitality: How friendly and welcoming is the family? We want to make sure that all of our students stay with people who will go out of their way to make them feel comfortable and at home.
Cleanliness and Quality: All of our homestays have been personally visited by a local representative to ensure that they meet our standards and are places that we would feel comfortable sending our own children.
Each host must submit an extensive application, and we conduct both telephone and in-person site visits for every host. We then conduct background checks on the adults in the residence, once someone has been deemed a good candidate to host with us.
May I choose my own host?
No. We take care to know each host very well, so we are best suited to make placement decisions. Based on the information you provide on your Application and the availability and special requirements of the individual host, you will be placed with the best possible host to suite your individual needs. If, for some reason, you are unhappy with a placement, we can work to find you another option as soon as possible, but we cannot host multiple hosts for a student while they make up their mind on where to stay (this is unfair to the hosts, who need to make plans around whether they are hosting someone).
When can I move into my homestay?
Sara's Homestay allows you to move into your homestay on any day of the week (unless you are participating in the Summer Immersion Program, where you have to check in and out on a weekend). We understand that sometimes exceptions need to be made due to flights, but we do ask that you plan to arrive at your Homestay Host’s home at a reasonable hour of the day.
How do I get to and from school?
All of our cities have public transportation, although some are more convenient and easier to access than others. While public transportation tends to be safe in the United States, it is a good idea to use a taxi service or travel with a friend if you are staying out late at night. Your host will carefully teach you the best transportation route from your homestay to your classes, but it is your responsibility to pay for your own transportation.
Will there be other international students in my homestay?
Frequently there is more than one international student living in a homestay. This can be a wonderful way to make a good friend. Remember: when you are home you should only speak the language of the country in which you are staying (i.e. English in the U.S., French in France, etc.).
May I contact my host family before I move in?
Yes, we encourage you to reach out to your host, either via telephone or by email, before you go to your homestay. This is a great way of introducing yourself and making the transition into the homestay a smooth one.
May I send my luggage ahead of me?
No. We cannot accept luggage or packages before the student’s arrival date.
May I change my date of arrival or departure?
Yes, provided that you give us notification in writing, and assuming your homestay host is available for your new dates, we can change your booking. Just remember: if you have only booked your host through a specific date, we cannot promise that they will not be booked with another student for after your initial departure date. This means that if you wish to extend your homestay, it is in your best interest to give us as much forewarning as possible, so that we can hold your host for you.
What will my homestay family be like?
Every homestay family is different, just like every family in general is different. Some love being outdoors and being active, others enjoy cooking and listening to music. Each Host has been chosen because they are interested in welcoming international students into their home and in sharing their lives with people they don’t know. Keep an open mind and get to know your hosts, and we are confident that you will have an unforgettable experience.
What will their food be like?
Students eat their host’s normal food. It is difficult to define a typical meal, as our global culture has integrated so many cultures and culinary practices. You will enjoy a much wider variety of fresh, healthful foods than simply “fast food” options, but we cannot say that you will always have “tradition” French food every night you are in Paris, as many people enjoy food from all around the world. Please feel free to let your hosts know what your favorite dishes from your country are, and a great activity to share with your host is to show your host how to prepare this meal.
If I have restrictions on what I can eat (either due to allergies, religious beliefs, or dietary preferences) can I still eat with my homestay family?
Almost always, yes. Make sure that you mention your dietary restrictions on your Reservation, and we will discuss these with your host when we assign you to that home. Most of our hosts are able to accommodate dietary restrictions, but in the few instances when this is not possible, we would simply suggest that you do not order dinner service (instead, you may want to purchase and prepare your own meals).
Who does my laundry?
Students are responsible for their own laundry, cleaning, and hygiene. Most American families do not have domestic help, and so it is normal for everyone in the home to help with some of the light housework (e.g. washing dishes, taking out the garbage, etc.). Students are also responsible for keeping themselves, their rooms, their linens, their bathrooms, and their clothes clean.
May I use my host’s telephone?
No. Unless you have permission from your host (and a calling card), you are not allowed to use your host’s phone. Most students communicate with home via email, Skype, and cell phone.
May I use my host’s computers, printers, TV, etc.?
Only with permission from your host. Please understand that this is personal property, and you should ask permission from your host before using these items. Most students bring their own laptops; if you do not have your own computer or printer, you should ask your school about gaining access to a computer lab on campus; otherwise, you can use the local libraries.