Making the most of your host family experience! Check out our 5 tips on how…


Living and studying abroad can be a rewarding and enriching experience. And living with a local family is one of the best ways to immerse yourself into a county’s culture.

However, living with a foreign family can be a daunting prospect and take some effort to adjust to. Although, for those who make the effort, it is almost always worth it! Here are our tips on making the most of your host family experience.

exchange student with host family - accreditations
1. Write to your host family before you arrive

We encourage all HSI students to reach out to their host families by email 1/2 weeks before traveling. You might be feeling nervous about your upcoming trip. But also most host families will be anxious to learn about you before you arrive at their home.

Writing them an email to introduce yourself is a great way to start communication. Sharing photos and telling them about who you are and what your interests and ambitions are is also encouraged.

Almost always, HSI host families will respond to you with a similar email with more information about who they are. As well as how much they are looking forward to you joining their family!

This simple interaction means that when you arrive at their home on your first day, you are no longer strangers. Allowing you both to feel more comfortable, and to look forward to learning more about each other.

2. Make a good first impression

When arriving at your host family, you will want to make sure you start things off in the right way.

One simple way to do this is to learn what the usual greeting in your new country is. Is it a handshake, a kiss on each cheek, or a hug?

Of course, all people are different so there is no way to know for sure. Don’t be offended if your family’s greeting is not the same as you might receive in your home country.

It might be the case that in your country you can expect a hug from someone you have never met. Although in places like England, a simple handshake is seen as just as polite and friendly as a warm embrace. Understanding this is a small part of the cultural journey you have just embarked on.

Another easy way to show off your friendly side is to bring your host family a small gift from home. A box of chocolates, biscuits or sweets, or something that is popular in your home country will always be received with a smile and is a great way to start introducing your host family to your own culture.

3. Respect the family rules

When you live with an HSI host family, you are expected to behave and respect the rules of the home in the same way as any other member of the family. In return, you will be warmly welcomed into the family and involved in all family activities.

We help you to understand what your obligations are during your HSI Student Care Plan session, with you, your host family and your HSI Student Advisor.

During this session, soon after you arrive, you will be made fully aware of how your new host family operates and what rules there are in their home. This could be things like what time you are free to use the bathroom in the mornings/evenings, what food you can/can’t help yourself to, or what time you may stay out until in the evenings.

We also remind our host families of what their obligations and responsibilities are towards you, to ensure you are safe and happy whilst living with them.

4. Embrace the differences

If you’re expecting things in your new host family to work just like they do at home, then you are probably going to be very surprised!

During your application with HSI we try to learn about what your expectations are of a host family, but no matter how well we match you to one of our amazing families, there will always be some big differences to what you are used to.

It might be unfamiliar routines, schedules, communication or even foods – people from different parts of the world will have different ways of doing things.

You might not like all the differences, and that’s OK, but being able to understand them and adjust to them is all part of becoming a global citizen with an appreciation of other cultures.

5. Communication is key

You might be the type of person who can adjust to all these changes super-easily, but there’s just as much chance that you are going to find at least some of these cultural differences quite difficult to adjust to, and that’s perfectly normal.

If you are finding certain aspects of your new lifestyle a real challenge, then talking to your host family about this will help. They are not going to be able to replicate your home lifestyle for you, but they might be able to make small adjustments which will help you settle and make you feel more at home.

It’s also another opportunity for you to share your culture with your host family, which is the main reason most families host international students, so you don’t need to feel shy about being open and honest with your host family.

If you need somebody else to speak to then you always have your HSI Student Advisor. If you can’t wait until your monthly in-person meeting, then your HSI Advisor will be happy to have a chat with you on the phone at any time.


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