Emily McGeary is one of CAPA's Official Bloggers for Fall 2014, sharing her study abroad story in weekly CAPA World posts. An Arizona State University student, she is studying abroad in London this term.
In this week's post, Emily talks about her rewarding homestay experience in London and shares five reasons why she'd recommend to other study abroad students the option of staying with a host family.
She also mentions the comments that she often hears from other students (who are currently on a study abroad program but staying in shared accommodation) when they hear that she is staying in a homestay.
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When filling out my CAPA International Education application to study abroad, the decision to live in either a flat with other students in central London or with a homestay family was actually a fairly easy one. I think what’s important about my decision process, though, is that I considered all my options thoroughly.
The subject of my being a homestay student comes up a lot when I meet fellow CAPA students. I usually hear them say one of three things:
1) They didn’t really look much into the homestay option or understand what it was all about.
2) They were afraid of being tied down by the family’s rules.
3) They didn’t want to live in the suburbs of London because it would be too far away from everything.
Now, there are definitely pros and cons to every living situation—that’s just life—and this option is not ideal for every student, but it made me a little sad to know that some students either didn’t fully understand or were afraid of some of its aspects.
This is why I am sharing with you five reasons why I love living in a homestay and think future study abroad students should consider it too! Just like living in the flats, every person’s experience is different, however, these five elements should be similar across the board when choosing to be a homestay student.
1. THERE IS SOMEONE TO LOOK OUT FOR YOU. I am a very family oriented person. I was never the kid who merely said “fine” when their parents asked how school went that day. Being in a homestay, I have really enjoyed coming home and being asked how my day was by my host parents and asking them the same. I think every time it’s a really special opportunity to be able to sit down and share a meal with my host parents and housemate Janel (fellow CAPA student). It’s also nice to know that there’s someone at home wanting to make sure you’re okay. Whether that means you getting home safe at night or offering other support. If I have questions about London - where to go, what to see, or anything else - I know I can ask them.
2. FOOD. Being a homestay student means you get "free" food. For me, this hasn’t been just any free food, but free home-cooked culturally specific food. My two favorites have been the classic British fish and chips and a Russian soup that I swear was the best soup I have ever had. Our host parents have also tried their hand at making burgers and found “American” recipes online to try out on us.
3. YOU HAVE YOUR OWN SPACE. In London real estate, the further out you go from central London, the more space will be available to you. That is pretty well paralleled to living in a homestay vs. sharing a flat with other CAPA students. Janel and I each have our own rooms and share our own bathroom. I like having my own space and enjoy being able to have a quiet place to do homework or just chill out by myself when I want to.
4. YOU COMMUTE LIKE A REAL RESIDENT. One of the major aspects students seem wary of when thinking about the homestay option is being far away from everything. Making use of my Oster card, I can get to central London from my homestay in under an hour, which I think is completely reasonable. My host mom actually commutes to work by public transport herself instead of using a car, so it’s a very real experience that we’re having by living in the suburbs and traveling to CAPA for classes via the tube.
5. YOU GET AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE. This is the big one. The main reason I’m here is to learn about another culture. What better way to get an inside understanding than to live with locals? It’s not at all what I expected though. Neither of my host parents have that traditional British accent you hear on T.V. or typically think of in regard to England. My host dad’s family hails from Cyprus and his wife is from Moscow. They both speak multiple languages and have thick accents. But they are a part of London culture as much as anyone else. I think they have unique perspectives on life here. Living with them is continually showing me how diverse a city London is.
Like I said in my first post, one of the reasons why I think CAPA is such a good program is because you are given options to tailor the semester to what you personally want to get out of the study abroad experience. One of those options is living in a homestay. It’s not the best choice for everyone, but it was certainly the right choice for me and I am loving every minute of it. For me, the benefits and learning experiences have already far outweighed any downsides. So just like the decision to study abroad, if you are considering living in a homestay, I’d say don’t be afraid to jump right in to your global city’s life and culture and just do it!
Stay tuned for another post from Emily next Monday! If you're interested in learning more about the CAPA blog and vlog grant program, please visit the scholarships page on capa.org.