Hosting an international student is a life-changing experience. Becoming a host parent helps bring people together from different cultural backgrounds to reach a mutual understanding of one another. But inviting an international student into your home can also be stressful if you don’t know what to expect. We’ve compiled five common misconceptions of hosting an international student, and the truth behind them.
Misconception #1: International students will act like your American children
Unlike American children, who are taught to help out around the house, many international students may be unaccustomed to doing chores. East Asian parents, in particular, value education above all else and will ensure the student is not distracted from studies due to duties or other household activities. This could be a point of contention if not addressed adequately at the beginning of the homestay period. Using chores as a way to include the student in family time can help ease them into the idea and further immerse them into your family.
The cuisine is heavily influenced by region in foreign countries, much like in the United States. Researching what people eat for each meal in his or her hometown will help ease the student into your home. For example, East Asian countries typically serve three hot meals a day and are not accustomed to eating raw, cold food or cheese, which is a disconnect between the cereal breakfasts, sandwich lunches and mac-and-cheese dinners American children enjoy.
American children are taught to say ‘please,’ ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ from a very young age, but these phrases are not often used in countries like China. Be mindful that students’ actions are not malicious if they don’t express these idioms, and help students’ learn why it occurs so often in American culture. Additionally, the concept of “saving face” is highly emphasized in Chinese cultures. Asian students can be less direct and not raise concerns in fear of embarrassing the host family.
Regardless of what his or her background is, it’s important to remember that your international student is a teenager. Therefore, it is essential to have clear house rules and expectations for your student to follow, similarly to children in the United States.
Misconception #2: It’s expensive to host an international student
While hosting an international student is a fulfilling experience, there are also costs associated with inviting a new family member into your home. At Cambridge Network, we offer a competitive monthly stipend to offset the additional costs of hosting a student.
This stipend should be put towards costs you are responsible for as the host parent. This includes utilities, transportation, and meal costs. As a host parent at Cambridge Network, you are required to provide three meals per day for the student as well as snacks. If you decide to go out to eat as a family, the student is not expected to pay.
Through Cambridge Network, international students are required to open their own bank accounts to use for discretionary income. If a student is too young to do so on his or her own, Cambridge Network staff will coordinate with the natural parents to open the account. You are not encouraged to be a part of students’ finances as a host parent but could advise on living costs associated with the city you live in. If financial difficulties arise, the student should speak directly with his or her natural parents, or the support services coordinator.
The student is responsible for items such as uniforms, books, school supplies, and field trips. It is essential to set this precedent during the student’s first week to prevent any confusion around who pays for what.
Misconception #3: You must speak the same language as your international student
Students travel to the United States and elect to stay in a home over a dormitory to further immerse themselves in the American culture. Therefore, one of their top goals is to improve their English language skills. Students will be attending English speaking high schools and will be taking English Language Classes, so it is imperative that they fully understand the language. By using English at home, they can fully immerse themselves in American culture and practice English away from class.
It might be nice to learn a few phrases of your student’s native tongue to help them feel more at home, especially during the first few weeks. We compiled some communication tips for host families to help communicate with their international student!
Misconception #4: You become the international student’s legal guardian as a host parent
A legal guardian is defined as “a person who has the legal authority (and the corresponding duty) to care for the personal and property interests of another person, as appointed by a court of law.” You will not become the international students’ legal guardian as part of the Cambridge Network ecosystem.
You will, however, have power of attorney privileges as a host parent. This means you are granted certain rights under the contract to maintain the health and welfare of the minor. These rights include establishing household rules like the right to regulate curfew, mealtimes, chores, and behavior. Additionally, you can assist in health maintenance like taking the student to doctors appointments and signing off on documentation permitting medical attention for the student. In severe but rare circumstances, you will be allowed to authorize emergency treatments on the student’s behalf if the natural parents are unable to be reached. A support services coordinator from Cambridge Network would be with you in the rare case this occurs.
Misconception #5: You need to be a particular “type” of family to become a host
It’s true that many foreign students, especially those from Eastern Asia, have a very conservative view of what a “typical” American family looks like. Some don’t understand that the United States is a melting pot of different ethnicities, cultures, and lifestyles. At Cambridge Network, we believe in the power of cultural exchange and are adamant about dispelling negative stereotypes any student may hold. We encourage host families of all types to apply and hope to create an appreciation for diversity among students and families.
Our requirements to be a host parent are reasonably straightforward. First, host parents must express an interest in opening their homes to a new international student and want to treat and supervise the student as if he or she is your own. Host parents must also be able to provide a private bedroom, three meals per day and daily transportation to and from school. Our host family community is comprised of all types of ethnic backgrounds and family units, whether they be big families, empty-nesters, single parents or same-sex parents.
Check out our homestay blog for more information on Cambridge Network as a homestay provider, tips for hosting, and our host testimonials. If you’re interested in hosting an international student, please fill out an inquiry form!