10 December 2018

The joys of living in a homestay

Philip Y. Lopez
Filipino postgraduate diploma student

One of the first things that you have to arrange before arriving in New Zealand is a place to stay.

There are many options to choose from ranging from residential halls to flats and serviced apartments.

I decided to stay with Graham and Marissa, a Kiwi couple, in a homestay and this was the best decision I made before coming here. It’s been six months now since I arrived and, looking back on my experiences, I think these are the benefits of living in a homestay. Hopefully these benefits will be useful if you're are at a crossroads in your decision making at this very moment:

You will have a Kiwi tutor immediately adjacent to your room

Graham is 100% Rotoruan and having spent most of his life here, he almost certainly knows all the nooks and crannies of this beautiful city. He has taught me a lot – from politics, work and social etiquette, the healthcare system, flora, fauna, you name it he has shared it with me! I usually practise my English with him and I have learned to decipher some of slang and figures of speech he throws at me most of the time.

Kiwi food? Graham is a very good cook and he has introduced me to a lot of food that one finds at a typically Kiwi table – mince, boil-ups, roasted pork, salads, pies, desserts and a lot more (though I still sneak in with a plate of steamed rice most of the time!). He has shown me the art of gardening because he is simply good at doing that. One thing I would never forget was when he said that “the best food that you will offer your family is from the garden because it has been grown from your heart”.

Your circle of friends will increase fast!

Graham is a Kiwi and Marissa is Filipino so I get the best of both worlds. They have a huge circle of friends and family which I have met. Within several weeks, my circle of connections and acquaintances grew exponentially. Their family and their closest friends have been a great help to me as I have assimilated in my new crowd. In fact, my first job was due to Graham’s recommendation and I successfully secured a job a month after I arrived. Marissa has introduced me to a lot of Filipinos here in Rotorua so I get the chance to mingle with my own countrymen too!

My friends

You get to travel most of the time

The Kiwis enjoy the outdoors and weekends are especially devoted to it. In a span of two months, together with EJ, my friend, I have been swimming in the waters of Ohope Beach in Whakatane, touring the gardens of Hamilton, climbing Mt. Maunganui in Tauranga, walking the streets of Matamata, discovering Auckland, frolicking in the shores of Lake Taupo, buying fruits in Te Puke, seeing the majestic mountains of Tongariro and Ruapehu, and roaming around seeing the best of Rotorua and its surrounding areas. It’s a good way to explore the country and travelling offers a lot of benefits to a weary heart.

You get a family

Probably the best benefit of being in a homestay is getting an instant mom and dad to take care of you. For me, I wanted to have the security offered by a foster family. It’s a good way to instil peace of mind with the family you left behind at home. There’s no better way to pacify their anxieties than to know you are here and being taken care of. A homestay family offers a ton of advice and valuable support once culture shock gets a grip on you and homesickness is limiting you to be what you wanted to become.

When my wife and my daughter visited me here three months after I arrived, my homestay family generously offered their home and treated my family as their own. It’s soothing to know that someone is looking after you and offering you a mug of warm ginger lemon tea to lift your spirits. This often comes with a simple note reminding you to eat, stay fit and be healthy!

My family

These I believe are the benefits of living in a homestay. Wherever I will be in the future, I would definitely go back and visit them once again – back to the roots when I first came to appreciate how beautiful New Zealand is.

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About the contributors
Philip Y. Lopez
Filipino postgraduate diploma student

Philip is currently studying at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology in Rotorua for a Level 8 Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Professional Studies (Mentoring and Leadership). He has a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology and is a physician with specialty training in anatomic and clinical pathology. He earned his Masters of Science degree in the Philippines. He is currently finishing his PhD through distance learning alongside his NZ qualification.