homestay student

Pros and Cons of Hosting an International Student


You can supplement your income by hosting international students in your home. However, there are pros and cons to consider before stepping into this venture.

By: Anita Oksa

Whether you are a young couple with a growing family and a mortgage, or retirees with an empty nest or even a single with an extra bedroom, you can supplement your income by hosting international students in your home. There are , however, pros and cons which should be considered before stepping into this venture or as some might say, “Misadventure”.

Where to Start

There are many agencies and ESL schools in North America looking for homes for students from all over the world, as young as tweens or as old as seniors. Most, however, are teens or young adults seeking to hone their English skills. The length of stay varies from two weeks to several years. You need to provide a bedroom with desk, lamp, clean linens, a bathroom and nowadays, internet access. Meal plans vary from three meals a day to just dinner. The monetary compensation differs but you aren’t going to get rich ! But you will gain insights, exposure to many cultures and a window to the views of young people.


A warm, welcome attitude is as important as clearly outlining your expectations to your homestay guest. Emphasize how important it is that they advise you in advance if a meal is not required. Still don’t be surprised to see the top of a head ambling down your driveway not to return until later that night while the meal you prepared gets cold. It can occur so best just to save it in the refrigerator. ( The same young man who did this also brought me a resplendent bouquet of flowers for Valentine’s Day. )


Mealtime can be a fun occasion as you introduce new foods and are you are rewarded with curiosity and praise. Don’t be surprised when photos of your culinary feats crop up on Facebook. Have them invite a friend. They are often proud to show off their homestay family. Don’t expect anyone to jump up from the table to help you cleanup. You have to outline what you expect. Many of these young people come from homes with domestic help or a culture where the Mum does everything. The automatic dishwasher is often a source of some amazement to them.

Cleaning & Laundry

Without sounding too draconian, give your student or students a time slot to do their laundry. Otherwise you might have your machine being used daily for washing one favorite tee shirt. They are in a homestay , not a hotel, so show them how to change their linens and where the cleaning implements are to tidy up their room. TIP- Give them fresh towels and sheets in exchange for the soiled ones to avoid having mismatched sheet sets . And be forewarned that Saudis don’t generally use a top sheet.

Bathroom Etiquette

If you start to notice a stale smell in their bathroom as well as a rapid diminishment of toilet paper, you forgot to mention that the toilet paper goes in the toilet and not the wastebasket. The downpipes in many Mid Eastern and South American countries are too narrow to accommodate the paper.

Socializing with your Student

Don’t be alarmed if your student retreats to his room to the comfort of his laptop. The schools offer many activities as well as week-end excursions but some are too shy or have emotional issues so that they don’t take advantage of social activities or even good weather. Then there are others who are outgoing, eager to see and experience everything new and exciting for them. It is rewarding to hear of their adventures and to be part of that explosion of youthful exuberance. Try to include the quiet ones in some of your activities even if it is just grocery shopping. We always had at least one day where we would take our charges for a drive or to some local attraction.

Some Problems 

Sad to say that some parents send off their child for reasons other than to learn English and that exilee sometimes has emotional or physical limitations. An eating disorder lead one of our girls to decimate a tin of cookies over and above the one I had already given her. I took to secreting them in the closet after that ! Another sweet young man was either border line autistic or perhaps an idiot savant. He left our home to move to a rental room and found a job washing dishes. (He was here on a one year working visa.) When we invited him back for dinner, he brought a hostess gift. It was half a bottle of soy sauce.

Another and more serious issue occurred when we had a fourteen year old who brought his little friends over to his room which was downstairs. We often encouraged them to invite their friends. In this case we hadn’t done so and he hadn’t asked for permission. Naively, I didn’t intercede and unbeknownst to me they proceeded to get completely drunk. It was a bad situation that was not to be anticipated but was resolved. This lad was dispatched A.S.A.P. to his family abroad.

Over All Good Times

There are too many funny stories and good times to recount here. There was the Swiss fellow who didn’t know what the breakfast sausage accompanying his omelet was – and he was German Swiss ! Or the Mexican 38 year old who was teasingly dubbed “Daddy” by his classmates. I would hear his voice echoing from his room, singing his heart out to “ Lucy in the sky with diamonds” practicing English.

Finally, don’t be insulted if a student requests a change of homestay. Let them be some other household’s burden. They aren’t homestay students but hotel stay individuals. The other ones who have shared their lives with you, stay in touch, thanks in part to modern technology. You will reap the added pleasure of seeing them graduate, embark upon careers, get married and have babies. The homestay experience, like life, can be what you make of it !


About the Author:
Anita is a Travel Consultant who for may years worked for Air New Zealand. Now she enjoys writing for blogs and sharing her travel experiences.  She lives in Vancouver Canada with her husband and two spoiled cats. You can contact Anita at:

Read: Karen Dugdale’s experience on hosting an international student.

Photo: hackNY