Homestay is a rewarding experience

Becoming a Homestay Family
Jo works at Inglewood High School as a teacher aide for special needs children. Jo is married to Steve and they have 14-year old twins Oliva and Tyla  The family have hosted international students twice. Last year they hosted Cherry from Dongguan in China and this year they have hosted Karlin from Tokyo, Japan.

While talking to the high school’s homestay coordinator, Jo became curious about becoming a homestay parent. It so happened that the school wanted homestay parents for the 5 week Dongguan Middle School visit.  The family loved having Cherry who was a friendly student and got on well with the family.

After the initial positive experience, the school asked the Hadlands if they would host a long-term student.  Karlin arrived from Tokyo in January 2018 and has spent 9 months at Inglewood High School. Karlin’s friendly and outgoing nature and the family’s openness and willingness to help her understand kiwi life as made the experience really positive.

Learning New Things
Karlin’s school in Japan sends all its students overseas to learn English.  The rules are strict Karin was not allowed contact with home or other Japanese students in Taranaki from her school nor could she use a smartphone, have another Japanese student stay a night with or watch Japanese movies. Jo says that initially, this did a put a bit of pressure on her to ensure that Karin was happy settling in. But by working hard on English language learning means that Karin’s language skills have really improved.

But it's not just language that the family’s passed on to their student. Karin’s learnt about being in a kiwi family. Karlin is an only child so she’s had to adjust to having “sisters” and learn to help out with chores around the home.  She’s also been on a camping holiday, gone whitebaiting with Steve and been to the high school ball.

Benefits of being a homestay family
The best part of being a homestay family has been learning to consider someone else’s needs. Jo feels it made them all less selfish brought the family closer together. They have learnt about life in China and Japan, particularly the contrast with school life in New Zealand.  “The amount of work that students from these countries do at school and the long days spent studying was eye-opening”, says  Jo.  It made the Hadlands appreciate the time that they have together as a family. The teenage girls have had fun together, “they all like singing Mama Mia songs together” Jo notes. The family will stay in touch with both students and maybe even one day visit them.

Challenges of being a homestay family
While both experiences have been very positive, there have been some minor challenges. Cherry had summer homework from her school in China and this gave Jo less time to show her around the region than she would have liked.

This year it has been challenging when Jo has been away for the weekend. The rules of the placement from Karlin’s school are that it Jo goes away, overnight then Karlin must stay somewhere else.
Neither student was used to having pets as their urban home environment really hasn’t allowed for it.  Karin has learnt how to handle cats during her stay. The family got a kitten soon after they arrived and Jo says that it wasn’t long before Karin was taking pictures of the kitten.

Tips for prospective homestay parents
Here are Jo’s pieces of advice if you are considering becoming a homestay family:

  • Set out house rules from the first day. Outline your expectations for how the student fits into the family.  Karlin helps around the house by emptying the dishwasher, taking in the washing and bringing in firewood, just like Jo’s own girls.
  • Having a spare bedroom is essential. “Our biggest problem is our house size”, says Jo, “there is not quite enough space and the twins have had to share for 9 months.”  This has been OK this year but wouldn’t be OK the twins sit NCEA and study for exams.
  • Draw up a schedule for the family covering things like what time they leave for school, dinner time and any regular weekly fixtures. Go over the schedule with your and make sure the student understands it.
  • Check in with the student regularly and make sure they are happy and have everything they need.
  • Have some familiar food from home available.
  • Make sure the bedroom is warm with plenty of bedding.
  • Encourage the student to get out and make friends. You may need to push them a bit, but it will make their stay way more enjoyable.