So, let's be honest: choosing to study in the US is a big deal. It is, however, also immensely rewarding and a huge amount of fun- but before all that can begin, where are you going to live? Flat? College? Homestay? What, you don't know much about homestays? Okay, here goes...
One of the most popular options with students enrolled at universities in the US in recent years has the been the homestay. This involves students living with a family near to their chosen university. The experience is widely acknowledged as being a great opportunity for two main reasons.
The first reason revolves around culture. Being part of a homestay means that you get to immerse yourself in US family life, which is a great experience- plus, you get to practice your English on a daily basis! The second reason centres on comfort and a welcoming atmosphere. Living with a family means cooked meals and a welcoming environment and plenty of opportunities to practise your English with no pressure.
Now that you know the basics, we're going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions on homestays, so you get the full picture and can make an informed decision on whether this option would be right for you.
Will I be close to the university?
You are not guaranteed being on the doorstep, but the majority of universities arrange homestays for students, and that means finding families that are close to campus. However, this may sometimes mean ‘close’ in the sense of driving distance. If you don’t drive, the family will, or you may have to use public transport. The majority of homestay arrangements are never more than around half an hour away by car.
What about medical insurance?
The United States has a medical Insurance program that basically means you will have to pay for your own medical care. However, if you take out medical insurance and something happens to you or you get ill, the insurance will help towards payments. You are entirely responsible for taking out medical insurance. Some students mistakenly believe that the family they are going to stay with are responsible for arranging medical insurance for them. This is simply not true. Before you go to the US to take up your place at university arrange for medical insurance so that you’ve covered as soon as you step foot on American soil.
Are homestay families paid?
The homestay family will be paid for looking after you. This arrangement is entirely down to the University that you are attending, because the majority of situations are taking care of entirely by the institution itself. This of course means that you are not involved in paying for rent, other than what you give to the University. This is an ideal situation, because it takes the responsibility of arranging for rent out of your hands, as the University takes care of that side of things.
How early should I apply?
It is, of course, possible that you can turn up in the US and be given a homestay accommodation arrangement immediately. However, this is not necessarily the case, and it is always worthwhile contacting the university before you leave for America. Arranging accommodation early always pays off; at least to the extent that it gives you peace of mind. You will be given some level of priority due to the fact that you are an overseas student, but this does not mean that you will get a place if you turn up without arranging one beforehand. So the answer to this question is that you apply early as possible, as soon as you have received your offer of a place on your course of study.
Will I have internet access?
Of course, nowadays, computer and internet access is essential for study. Most families involved in a homestay program have internet and will be more than happy for you to use it. This will, again, have been arranged with the university beforehand. At the very least, you will be allowed 'academic use' privileges.
Arranging for a homestay is a great way to be immersed in US life. You’ll learn about the culture and improve your English simultaneously! If you have the opportunity to be involved in such an arrangement, grab it with both hands; it could be the best decision you’ve ever made.