Q. What is homestay?
A. Homestay is a cultural exchange between a local individual or family (called a host) and a visiting student. The student lives for an agreed-upon period of time as a guest in your home. The purpose of the homestay can be to support the student's desire to improve his or her English-speaking skills, as well as to learn about American culture and lifestyle. Homestay allows the host family to learn about the student's culture as well. The American Homestay Network (AHN-USA) seeks to work with hosts who share our commitment to providing the best cultural-exchange experience possible for every international student in our program.
Q. How does homestay work?
A. A host is generally required to provide for the student's basic living needs, including a private bedroom, internet access, meals, and a space to study. During their time together, the host assists the student in becoming familiar with the local area and customs while providing a relaxed, friendly household setting. The student is also encouraged to share with the host information about his or her home country and culture. This interaction makes homestay ideal for students and hosts desiring a one-of-a-kind cultural experience. The AHN-USA program offers more than a room for rent by the student; it is an opportunity for the host to make a real difference to the student's future and launch the student successfully into the American lifestyle.
Q. Where do the students come from and why are they here?
A. The students may come from all over the world. Currently, however, the largest numbers of visiting students come from Asian cultures. The students may be here simply to experience American culture and improve their English-speaking skills, or they may be pursuing a specific educational program from an American educational provider. Studying abroad has a long history; it has been popular among all countries and cultures for many years, even centuries.
Q. Do the students speak English?
A. Yes, they all speak some level of English. Visiting university students must demonstrate some level of proficiency in English, but many are here specifically to learn English and immerse themselves in the language to improve their skills. Many students find that staying in a welcoming American home is the best way to do that.
Q. Will I be reimbursed for my expenses?
A. The student is charged a weekly fee to cover management and supervision costs, 24/7 emergency support services, as well as to reimburse the host for meals and accommodation expenses. This fee varies regionally and is also based on proximity to schools and the meal plan selected by the students. Hosts receive the majority of this fee which is designed to reimburse them for their day-to-day expenses. You can read more about our programs here.
Q. How close do I have to be to a university?
A. Our goal is that our hosts will live within a reasonable bus (or other public transportation vehicle) ride to the student's educational institution. Educational institutions may include not just schools and universities, but also private education providers, community colleges, technical or vocational institutions, and English-language schools. If you are interested in a hosting experience, please complete the application.
Q. How do I apply?
A. Click the "Host Application" button which is also found on the homepage. Once you have completed all three pages of the application form and submitted it, an email will be sent to your email address. You must receive this email and click an activation link to verify your email address and activate your account. You can then log in to your AHN Host Homepage whenever you wish.
Q. After I apply, what's next?
A. Once logged in, new host members can create their profile, explore the members' area, and read through the training information. When they have reviewed all the training materials, host applicants take an online exam consisting of simple questions taken directly from the training. This exam is "open book": it is okay to review the training material while answering the questions. After the host successfully completes the online exam, an interview will take place. An AHN-USA Host Manager will make an appointment to visit your home to meet you and your family, and assess the home environment. This visit provides you with the opportunity to meet your Homestay Manager and further discuss your expectations while learning about those of AHN-USA. Assuming that your home and family meet the AHN-USA host-family requirements, a proprietary national criminal background check will be performed on all members of your family who are 18 years or older. Once that check is completed satisfactorily, you are ready to begin hosting students.
Q. Why does AHN do a criminal background check?
Student safety and welfare is our top priority. The national criminal background check is an integral part of the screening process that AHN-USA staff and host families must complete in order to participate in our program. A background check is required for all members of the household who are 18 and older; please note that we do not conduct a credit check. The check must be completed every three years and the $50 cost for the check will be deducted from your first host payment.
Q. What are my responsibilities as a host?
A. As a host family, you are expected to welcome the student into your home and provide a safe, caring environment, much as you would for any member of your family. Hosts must be prepared to spend time with the student and display a friendly, flexible attitude. Host responsibilities include teaching the students such basics like acquiring a cell phone, buying public transportation tickets, the location of local shops, how to use banking services and providing personal safety tips. We expect our hosts to exercise a reasonable level of care while performing any day-to-day acts that could conceivably harm others. A successful hosting experience is one in which both the student and the family enjoy a positive multicultural exchange during their time together.
Q. What type of accommodation is required?
A. The host must provide a student with his or her own bedroom, equipped with a comfortable (non-inflatable and non-fold-out) bed, a desk, a chair, appropriate lighting, closet space and a dresser, and up to three quality meals per day, depending on the student's choice of meal plan (which will match the host's meal plan preferences.) The food does not need to be 'fancy' or 'gourmet' but healthy and in many cases, students will enjoy having daily comforts such as rice and vegetables. The accommodation offered to students will need to be clean, orderly, and in good repair, and not currently under renovation. It must comply with current building regulations, be properly furnished, be located within the family dwelling, and offer privacy. Bathrooms may be private or shared. At AHN-USA, we customize our host programs; you can find out more about them here.
Q. How long is the hosting period?
A. It depends. Students may stay for just four weeks, while some elect to stay for as long as a year or more. Your host manager will seek to understand your hosting interests, and our matching process will help us select a student whose expectations match those of your own - as we also get students looking for shorter term stays.
Q. What support do I get from AHN-USA?
A. Everyone affiliated with AHN-USA—whether a host, student, or educator—has access to full management support, including the services of a local host manager during business hours and a 24/7 critical-incident line for emergencies that may occur after hours. AHN-USA collects all monies from the student and pays the host expense reimbursement monthly, directly to your bank account. Additionally, we provide online content to help you prepare for your student's visit and will help facilitate your relationship with the student through the adjustment period.
Q. What should I do before the student arrives?
A. Once you have applied to become an AHN host, you will have access to our online training and host test. We visit your home and will meet with you to answer any questions you may have about th program. Immediately before the student arrives, prepare the student's room with fresh sheets and towels. The student may be experiencing a dramatic temperature change so if it is hot, provide a fan. If it is cold, make sure there is enough bedding and supply a heater if necessary. Purchase enough food for the first day or so, making sure that you have items available to make a packed lunch for the student if needed. Refresh yourself with the student's profile in the system. In addition, you can choose to familiarize yourself with the customs and culture of your student's country, so you can understand your student a little better from the beginning of his or her stay with you.
Q. What should you do on the day that the student arrives?
A. Log in to the AHN-USA website and advise your manager that your student has arrived. Be available to greet your student and plan to be home for the first day or have a family member stay with the student. Don't just greet the student, tell him or her, "Help yourself," and head off to work. Students are young people and often are away from home for the first time. They may be nervous and will have traveled for many hours. Even if your student is sleeping, he or she should not be left alone on the first day. Treat the student as you would wish your own family members to be treated if they were traveling overseas. Ask the student if he or she would like to contact his or her parents by telephone to advise them of a safe arrival. Offer the student something to eat and drink, and show the student his or her room and the bathroom facilities. Ask your student if he or she would like to take a shower or bath, and make the student generally welcome. Once the student has had ample time to rest, take the opportunity to orientate the student to your home, explain mealtimes, and introduce other family members. You should expect to review this information with the student more than once.
Q. What should you do in the first week that the student stays with you?
A. Log in to the AHN-USA website and complete your checklists. Confirm with the student that he or she is happy and is now comfortable using public transportation alone. Assist the student in getting to the bank and setting up a local account. Confirm that the student knows how to get to school, the local shopping centers, and the nearest city. Ask if the student has made some friends and inquire as to their general well-being. It is good practice to do this regularly for the first two or three weeks. Spend time speaking English with the student, and take the time to get to know him or her. Understand that the student may feel homesick and that this is a normal part of the adjustment process.
Q. What if problems arise?
A. AHN-USA relies on decades of management experience in supporting visiting students and hosts and uses a series of sensitively designed, reliable and proven process to minimize issues. Despite this expertise, problems can still sometimes arise. We will support all parties in finding a suitable solution, including placing the student with another host family, should that become necessary.