International Students and Host Families: Cultural Challenge

Many international students decide every year to embark on a unique and unforgettable experience, learning English while living with an American host family.  While this decision is usually rewarding and positive for both the student and the host family, it also poses some challenges. Among these challenges are the language barrier and a myriad of cultural differences.

International students usually learn English faster when living with a host family. This happens because they are in a situation where they have to use the language all the time, even outside of class. It helps students learn how to communicate in every day situations while faced with every-day type challenges.  Along with an ideal language immersion situation, staying with an American host family while studying English is also a great opportunity to immerse oneself in the US culture. Almost all of our students end up with a lifetime of memories and become fast friends with host family members. Students are able to observe first hand and participate in American life.

The host family plays an immense role in the student’s immersion experience.  For a student who is traveling away from their comfort zone, food, language, family, friends, and who is opening his/her horizons to a completely new culture, the right host family is momentous. The student will be able to grow throughout the process of learning English, only while supported by their new “home away from home” family members.

Host families have the very important task of acting as ambassadors of the US, to an international student. This unique situation usually turns out to be extremely rewarding to host families because they have the opportunity to meet someone from a different culture and share ideas and life experiences, without having to leave their home country. The host family offers support and perspective to the international student.  It helps the international student to get familiar with new surroundings, new ways of doing things, new mentalities, and new experiences. Host families integrate the student into their everyday life and routine. This exposes the student to real life in the US, to traditions, cultural beliefs, and even some new holidays. Hosting an international student then provides the amazing opportunity to build a stronger intercultural environment worldwide.

Host families are a vital part of the cultural immersion to the Bridge community and to a student’s success. The rewarding experience provides the opportunity for all individuals to grow, learn, create memories, and experience diversity. While it is expected that our students be diverse, it should not come as a surprise that American families are also diverse. An American host family may be a single woman, a married couple without children, an unmarried couple with children, a single man with pets, and so forth. No matter what kind of host family or where the international student is from, all individuals are expected to be open minded, supportive, and accepting of diversity. It merely provides the opportunity for open discussion, to learn, and to grow!