A home away from home
I would recommend any international student, especially one who’s never been too far from home to stay with a homestay family in the initial periods of their stay.
A homestay family is helpful for various reasons:
1. You get a second family
Your host family can help you with the ins and outs of settling in a new place, meeting people and the general tips that only a local would know.
My homestay family has been so helpful from the day I arrived; with advice on what bank to open an account with, how to save money by getting a bus card instead of using cash, as well as taking me around the city and visiting beaches and the like. I can honestly say that half of the things I have done with my host family are things I would not have done otherwise; and for that I am thankful.
2. You never feel too alone
I am an introvert, and left to my own devices I will most likely spend nights at home with my laptop watching a movie or series on my own – but it does get lonely sometimes. The good thing about a homestay is that the family would most likely have had other students stay with them before so they know that it can get lonely and hard for international students, and ideally, they are equipped to deal with that.
By now my host is aware that I am a homebody, but she is always inviting me out to dinner with her friends and making sure that I don’t feel like an outsider; and that goes a long way during the rare times that I crave the company of others. And as a result, I have opened myself up to the idea of meeting and interacting with new people even on my own.
3. Food. Need I say more?
As a student, sometimes you tend to forget that a nutritious meal is a necessity for normal body functioning. So in order to avoid prolonged periods of munching on chips and noodles, a homestay family allows you to have home-cooked meals. Just ensure that any dietary requirements (like allergies, lactose intolerance, veganism etc.) are discussed beforehand.
4. Cost and flexibility
In my opinion, it is a cheaper and more flexible option than campus accommodation. This largely depends on the location you choose and the terms you agree with the homestay, but there is flexibility that may not be possible if you chose on campus accommodation, and you can always negotiate as your relationship with the family progresses.
I have been fortunate enough to find a homestay family that fits closely to my personality, eating habits and general lifestyle; but not each family is created equal. It is your job to do as much research and probing as possible to ensure that the family you pick are a good fit for you. And if not, you should not be afraid to move and find a better option – after all, you will be living with these people for a long time, it's important that you like them.
About the contributors
Josephine, from Tanzania, studied for a PhD in Human Resource Management at Massey University, attending the Auckland Campus.