Maryland-based company, Just Like Home is a short term housing agency that places international guests with U.S. homeowners. The agency, led by President Andrea Grant, is currently looking for Chester County residents to open up their homes to adult international homestay participants who will attend a language program at West Chester University (WCU) this Fall.
VISTA.Today sat down with Grant and colleague, Ana da Silva, to better understand the needs of the travelers and the responsibilities of the hosts.
What are the age ranges of the students?
While we offer our programs to both teens and adults, the program at West Chester University will draw students between the ages of 20-25 years old. We partner with various Universities around the country, especially in the Northeast, and West Chester University is one of them. In many instances, the students matriculate to the universities upon completing their English courses.
Describe the ideal host household.
There really isn’t an “ideal” host. We work with a variety of hosts. We’ve had singles, retirees, couples, and families host our students. We find that retirees and educators especially enjoy working with us and make excellent hosts.
Host families will be asked to submit paperwork and then go through an approval process.
Walk us through the day of a traveler.
On weekdays, students attend language classes at WCU. Unless special accommodations are arranged with the host family, the student will travel by public transportation to WCU and then back home at the end of the school day.
While the host family is responsible for purchasing breakfast and dinner foods for their guest, the student is asked to make their own breakfast, keep their room tidy, clean up after themselves, and immerse themselves in the American culture.
Students purchase lunch at WCU and then join the host family for dinner at the end of the day. Host families are asked to provide dinner daily and join their guest for meals at least four to five nights per week.
Students are also tasked with homework assignments each evening and are expected to attend any weekend activities that the host family organizes, although excursions are not a requirement of the program.
How are host families chosen?
The primary need in a home is a fully furnished bedroom. The minimum requirements include a desk in the room, sufficient lighting, WiFi, and a bed. It is important to provide a desk in the room so the student has a safe space to call their own and a comfortable place to work on school assignments within their space.
Safety and cleanliness are two top factors when choosing host families.
What are the requirements of a host family on a day-to-day basis?
As mentioned, families are required to provide student travelers with two meals per day, including breakfast and dinner.
Students hope to better understand the American culture during their visit so, it’s always a bonus when hosts take students to places that are iconically American, even if it means a weekend excursion to the local Costco. Most of our travelers have never seen a warehouse store!
It’s also nice when families invite the student to Mass. This first group of students is from Mexico and they are typically Catholic, so it might be nice for them to experience an American Mass.
How are host families compensated?
Host families receive $900 every 28 days. Even more importantly, hosts have the chance to learn about another culture from the comfort of their home. This is especially wonderful for children of a host family.
Hosting allows a family the opportunity to be an ambassador and represents the positive aspects of our culture, more so than what they might see through media.
How do families receive this program:
Families love our program. It’s a win-win all around. Hosts are able to help someone while helping their own family.
The students become a part of their family during their stay and it’s often difficult to say goodbye. However, both parties have the opportunity to stay in touch and connect via social media or future travel.
We have students who leave a host family and continue to share milestones. And we have host families who eventually travel abroad to visit students.
One family said hosting international students was a life changing experience for the family said it was, “one of the most rewarding experience,” the family had ever experienced.
“We have had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, which has broaden our perspective of the world,” they continued. “Our guests have been respectful, kind and very interesting. It has been a win-win experience for our entire family.”
Do all of your students come from Mexico?
We have student groups from all over and other host opportunities throughout the year. Other groups include students from Europe, Asia and South America. If this opportunity isn’t right for a potential host family, there is always a future opportunity available.
Do students understand basic English?
All students have studied English for a number of years in their country. They can all carry basic conversations in English with host families.
What are the travel dates?
Travelers’ dates will vary, but our first group will arrive on November 6th and leave on December 3rd. We have sixteen students traveling with this group and need to confirm hosts by the beginning of October. It is important to note that the majority of the students will not be a part of a group.
If you had to drive home one message about becoming a host family, what would it be?
This is a unique opportunity for you to be an Ambassador and introduce travelers to the American culture.
Click here to learn more about Just Like Home, or if you have a room to spare, call 301-649-2389 now to become a Just Like Home host.
Top photo via the Chester County Planning Commission