Host family placement information will be sent to participants and parents/guardians as soon as placements are finalized. Placements are usually finalized the month of departure.
CIEE provides homestay experiences to all of our High School Abroad participants because we want them to experience daily life in their host culture. Their host family will give them advice, comfort, and parental guidance. Families choose to host because they are interested in intercultural exchanges; they are eager to share their language, culture and family life with your participant. A careful process is followed to identify, screen, interview, select and vet host families before students arrive.
All homestays look different, and we use the term “family” loosely, because there will not always be a mother, father, and children as is typically imagined. Some homestays may include children or extended family members, including multiple generations such as aunts, uncles, or cousins, and some homestays may constitute a single woman or older couple. In addition to diversity in family structure, there is also diversity in the look and feel of the home (apartment or house) and socioeconomic status. Regardless of makeup, all placements are composed of warm, gracious individuals who live in the host country and cannot wait to open their home and share their culture with a CIEE student.
Most of our host families do not live in big cities, but instead live in smaller cities or towns. Living and immersing oneself in a small town provides an authentic, personalized experience that you cannot replicate as a tourist in a big city. It is one of the things that makes this program a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
What to expect from a host family:
- Meals: Breakfast Lunch, and Dinner (if the participant packs their own lunch to take to school. If your participant chooses to buy lunch at school, they will be expected to pay for it on their own).
- Their own bedroom or a bedroom shared with a host sibling of the same gender, and access to all common areas of the home.
- Language Immersion: Host families are not required to speak English and, if they know English, they are encouraged NOT to speak to participants in English. Host families will be a great source for participants to learn and practice the local language.
- A family (of any type) will welcome your participant into their home and treat them as their own child – which includes setting rules, giving chores, and providing supervision.
What a host family expects from your participant:
- Attend meals, be attentive, engage in family activities, have a good attitude, participate in conversations, and be honest about their likes/dislikes.
- Care for their bedroom and have consideration for the family. Homestays are not hotels! Participants are expected to pick up after themselves and use utilities sparingly.
- Language Immersion: Encourage your participant not to speak in English unless absolutely necessary, greet their host family at every interaction, include themselves in household conversations, and make an effort to learn the local language.
- Host families want participants who will respect their home and their rules.
- True cultural exchange: Encourage your participant to talk about their life in the United States and express curiosity about life in their host country, make an effort to share in the local culture, adapt to their host family’s lifestyle, be part of the family, and have fun with them!
Host Family Tips:
- Help your participant understand that building and maintaining a healthy host family relationship is crucial to their success on the program. They may not instantly feel like a member of the family, but if they make an effort to form connections, that feeling of belonging will develop over time.
- Encourage your participant to share pictures, cook with their host family, ask for a tour of the neighborhood and town, tell them about their family, friends and school in the United States, and share their interest or talents with their family.
- Encourage your participant to seek out opportunities to interact, including household chores like meal preparation, clean-up, errands, etc. “How can I help?” is always a great conversation starter!
- Remind your participant to be respectful and ask permission before taking food from the kitchen or using anything that doesn’t belong to them.
- Remind your participant of the importance of following household rules. Encourage your participant to talk to their host family about things like curfew, computer use, food, inviting guests over, and making sure their host family always know where they are.
- Most importantly, remind your participant to COMMUNICATE WITH THEIR HOST FAMILY! If they are ever unsure about how to tell their host family something or need clarification about expectations, they should reach out to local staff right away. In-country staff are very experienced in facilitating host family/participant conversations. Our host families all want participants to have a great experience, and open communication will help everyone achieve that goal.
- Remember, your participant’s host family has a different cultural background than your participant. They may have a very different style of communication, sense of time, etc. so it is very important for your participant to try to adapt to their host family’s lifestyle.
Family Visit Rules
CIEE strongly encourages family and friends to wait until the end of their participant’s program to visit. In fact, in some countries, it is not allowed until the end of the program. Earlier in this newsletter, we talked about culture shock. It is real and something that the majority of participants will experience. When family and friends visit, participants often go through culture shock and/or homesickness again. We all want your participant to have the best experience possible. Waiting to visit until the end of the program is the best way to ensure your participant doesn’t have to re-adapt to their new surroundings and culture.