Boarding School vs. Homestay for International Students During COVID-19

A look at a list of top-ranked private U.S. high schools will inevitably feature the well-known American boarding schools that receive thousands of applications per year. Yet, these top boarding high schools only accept a little more than one out of every ten applicants. Although families around the world covet admission into these programs, it begs the question: Are elite boarding schools the best formative learning environment for international students, and is it safe in 2021?

In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, most elite U.S. boarding schools have continued in-person learning with increased precaution. As with other non-boarding high schools, students have had to wear masks, social distance, and observe basic hygiene protocols expected of any serious COVID mitigation strategy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently released a report citing research showing a relatively low risk of COVID-19 spread at K-12 schools when adequate precautions are taken. However, this does not address the risk of transmission in congregate living facilities like boarding school dormitories.

Many students who favor the boarding experience do so primarily due to the social element. Being surrounded by one’s peers, advisors, and teachers can help develop a strong sense of camaraderie, community, and social maturity. The issue with this is that in many cases, with boarding schools with international student programs, the majority of their boarders are international students and mainly from China. In those cases, students are not directly encouraged to speak English or participate in cultural exchanges outside of the classroom. This issue is made even worse during the pandemic as social interactions between individuals who do not share a living space are minimized.

Furthermore, the CDC has deemed “Shared and Congregate Housing” facilities, like school dorms, to be a much higher risk of COVID-19 transmission than private housing. The reason for this is the higher likelihood of contact between persons who are not cohabitating, the transfer of contaminated air through improper ventilation, and poorly designed common spaces with high-frequency touch areas.

Conversely, homestay schools offer a safer and more authentic American experience during the pandemic. In 2021, homestay students live with pre-screened American host families, each offering a safe and private living environment. International students are also immersed in an English language atmosphere where they can observe the living culture first-hand and partake directly in cultural exchange with their host families.

In these trying times, Cambridge Network Homestay has taken additional measures to ensure the safety of students and host families, advising students to do the following in accordance with the strictest federal and state public health recommendations:

  • Get tested 1-3 days before the departing flight
  • Get tested 3-5 days after travel
  • Delay travel if awaiting test results
  • Delay travel and quarantine for 10 to 14 days for travelers with known exposure to COVID-19; get tested and monitor their health

Cambridge Network is an international education consulting company that provides admissions, academic, and homestay solutions to high schools throughout the United States and Canada. We work to raise the international profile of high schools, enhance diversity, and provide valuable support and supervision for all Cambridge students.

For schools looking for more information on Cambridge Network and our services, please submit an inquiry form.