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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How can the school best vet and train potential homestay families?
A:  Having an application that families must fill out gives families a greater sense of commitment and provides schools with important information they need to know for responsible hosting, i.e. religious values, dietary restrictions, prescribed medication, pets, family routine and lifestyle, living accommodations for the international student, etc. If possible, meeting with the host family on campus or in their home is also good. Families have a chance to ask questions and to learn about expectations (who pays for what, if the students are expected to follow family rules, what are the school’s expectations, what do we do if we’re concerned about a certain behavior, is the student allowed to drive, discipline issues, etc.) You should check with your district to determine existing policies such as background checks, etc., and work on school guidelines as to where host families fit into these policies.

Q:  How often should homestay coordinators be in touch with host families and the students living with them?
A:  If the student is enrolled at day school, once per month has proved effective. This can be via phone calls, email or in person, but email is typically easier for everyone. It can be just a quick “touch base” to ask how everything is going ie. school work, social adjustments, behavior in general. For boarding schools, perhaps after the visit period ends to see how things went and to ask questions. Families love to feel appreciated and a phone call goes a long way.

Q:  Should there be stipends for host families?  How should one determine stipends for host families?
A:  There are many schools that offer stipends and many that don’t.  Some of this depends on whether the student is living with the family full-time or just for vacations (i.e. in boarding school during school time).  Certainly offering stipends changes the dynamics and expectations on the part of the host and the student. Schools should certainly consider this and determine what is the best fit for the school’s environment.

Q:  What are some ways to create a positive dorm environment for international students?
A:  Whenever it is possible, have a policy where international students share rooms with American students. They assimilate more quickly and may end up having more invitations to go home on weekends. Having opportunities for students to do activities together on the floor or in the dorm like international cooking night, movies, international games, etc. are positive ways to increase interactions. Provide professional training and development for dorm staff and student proctors on working with international students. 

There are many cultural differences that must be considered when asking two different cultures to room together. Concepts like “cleaning a room” and “sharing belongings” can vary widely from culture to culture. Time differences will be an issue for students who wish to communicate with family and friends. Roommate contracts and a climate of personal responsibility and community caring can go a long way to avoiding conflicts.

Q:  How does one set up vacation home stays for boarding students?
A:  Many schools will send an email out to current families over the summer or in the beginning of the year to ask if they would like to host a student over the various school breaks. Typically, they will include a short biography on the student(s) that will be joining the school. Families can then volunteer to take students over one or all breaks. 

During international student orientation, students are encouraged to let their new acquaintances know that they would be interested in learning more about American family life and would welcome the opportunity to spend time over a long weekend or break with a family. American kids are typically good about inviting students.

Send a letter to your host families letting them know what the expectations are for them and for the student. Families need a contact number at the school during vacations in case of any problems. Students need to have their medical and permissions information for host families.

Prepare international students on the expectations of the families, particularly if they will be there for a major holiday, e.g. Christmas or Thanksgiving. Emphasize the importance and value of saying “thank you”, writing a little note of thanks after their stay and being helpful while they are staying with a family (offer to help in the kitchen, sit with the family over dinner or while watching TV and share your culture with them). Families want to learn. That’s why they host.

TIPS

  • A good reference point is the Department of State's webpage on hosting international students in your home. Note that there are different pages for hosting individuals and families and hosting in conjunction with a school.
  • It’s important to have a team of people in any school who are committed to watching out for the international community. Considering these individuals and what they could bring to the table as part of such a team:
  • It’s important to have a team of people in any school who are committed to watching out for the international community. Considering these individuals and what they could bring to the table as part of such a team:
    • A teacher or head of the language department - to ensure students are in the right classes, to assist students with proper ESL support, and to facilitate communicating with teachers/advisors
    • An admission employee - to be the first point of contact for the student and their family and can often assist in finding homestays
    • An employee from student support or student activities department or overall dorm parent - to make sure there is a dorm open on campus when international students cannot go home, to plan acitivities, and to assist students in integrating themselves into the school's student body
  • Like US students, make sure that your students’ religious needs are being met. This may include providing a safe place to pray, reminding faculty that some cultures have set times for prayers that will interfere with classes and practice, wearing special clothes, dietary requirements and more.
  • If housing international students in dorms, have a dorm parent or resident coordinator of each gender available for students to go to with questions or concerns.
  • Have a student ambassador program and student ambassadors in every dorm.

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Relevant Resources

Guide to International University Admission

A comprehensive resource for counselors and students about undergraduate college options abroad.

The State of College Admission Report

Examining the transition from high school to postsecondary education through survey data collected from colleges and universities across the country.

International Student Recruitment Agencies

Learn about concrete steps schools colleges, and universities can take to engage with agencies responsibly.