Homestay 101

Although many abroad programs place students in dorms, IHP places students with a fellow student and a family in each country. The homestay experience has been wonderful and I wanted to write a blog about it so that students who are studying abroad in the future can decide if dorms or homestays is the correct choice for them!

In India, I was placed in the home of a wonderful older woman named Sobha. She was a hard-working widow with no kids in the house, so my roommate and I (both very introverted) had a lot of space and time to adjust to being abroad. We had the sweetest cook, Rekha, who lived there as well. I was initially nervous to have my first homestay and first roommate, but I ended up being very pleasantly surprised. I ate the most delicious food every day (with dessert after every dinner), I had a really beautiful home with a nice patio connected to my room, I had a super sweet roommate, and I had a lot of introvert time (which I needed). Of course, we had an early curfew and couldn’t do some things that people living in dorms could. But, having home-cooked meals and a space to call my own gave me a sense of comfort that dorms could not. Rekha was also such a beautiful light and I loved having the experience of knowing her.

My roommate and I bought Rekha and Sobha flowers and a polaroid of us as a goodbye gift

Rekha with her bouquet of flowers!

In South Africa, we had two homestays. The first was in our rural stay of Zwlethembe. There, I had one of my favorite host families. I lived with an older woman who was a cook at a local school. She was very sweet and cooked the most delicious meals and always watched movies and South African soapies with us after dinner. She shared with us such personal stories and we got very close. I appreciated the love and comfort that she gave us. Zwelethembe is also a very tight-knit community so I would always walk home with a handful of kids beside me, holding my hands. Sometimes we would stay outside after class and play games with them; I was always in a good mood! This layer of community is something you can’t get from dorming.

me and my roommate in Zwelethmebe with our host mom!

My next homestay, in the oh so beautiful Bo-Kaap, was my favorite! Prior to this placement I had been complaining that other students got babies and children in their homestay and I did not. The universe must have heard my complaints because this homestay had four children and towards the end, my host mother’s other grandkids stayed with us as well and made it eight children! This was a really sweet homestay experience. The kids were all musically talented and sang and performed for us all of the time. My host sister was also very sweet and my roommate and I were able to bond with her. She still texts us today! Needless to say, I was very sad to leave this homestay!

Me and my homestay nephews, Dayyann and Dean (they always wanted to take pictures and make videos)!

My homestay sister took a selfie with me and my roommate

My real sister came to visit me in Cape Town, and my homestay sister took us to the carnival!

My last and final homestay is in Sao Paulo! Here, I am living with two dads (Thiago and Eduardo) along with my friend, Salome. My dads don’t speak as much English as my past homestay families did (Brazil isn’t heavily populated with English speakers), but we all speak a mix of Portuguese, Spanish, and English together, which is really fun! They’re also very young and are always telling us to go out more and have fun. They’re not like regular dads, they’re cool dads. My past homestays had been very mom-centered, so it’s really nice having two dads for a change. This homestay has also been super convenient because we live a five-minute walk from our school and a 10-minute walk from the station, so we can access everything really easily.

Our homestay family!

The cons of choosing a homestay is it might be harder to meet other students outside of your program since you are not on a college campus and you have to be more conscious of rules and respecting people’s homes. However, you get delicious home-cooked food, a chance at forming great relationships with your host family, people to provide you with the cultural context and a real immersion into wherever you are staying.

Either way, studying abroad is such an amazing experience that you can’t really go wrong!

2 thoughts on “Homestay 101

  1. Paola—this is such a sweet post idea! I loved hearing about these intimate experiences while you were abroad (and your homestay families seem so so sweet!) Wishing you a lovely holiday <3

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