Student Voice Blog | How to get along with your host family?

It is common to have many inconveniences in boarding life when you are far away from home. Many international students have the same experience and distress, but in the student voice event, you can speak for yourself! Share your story and listen to others: it’s about sharing experiences and solving problems together!

After careful discussion among students from different parts of the United States, we divided host families into 10 conditions closely related to daily life: food, transport, housing, religious belief, etc. Let’s go through them together!


Part 1, Key word: Food Culture

Food is always brought up: What do international students eat every day? Burger fries? Steak salad? Or can they still eat rice?

Generally, American food is relatively simpler and has a sweet taste.

Breakfast is usually cereal, toast, milk, or instant cereal, etc. Usually host parents are busy in the morning and can not guarantee a full breakfast or hot breakfast for students during weekdays, so students have to figure out the breakfast by themself. If you don’t mind cold breakfast: cereal with milk, sandwich, pastry, etc. If you are a hot food person like me, you can try cooking in the morning: egg, sausages, or ramen! To save time, instant food is also a good option! Your host parents can buy some instant sandwiches that you can heat up in the microwave! (Bonus Receipt: my fav breakfast is cereal+milk+frozen fruit PEANUT BUTTER!)

Lunch can be made in advance and packed to take to school. Maybe some delicious left over from the night before or the sandwich your host parents prepare you. Students can also buy food in the school cafeteria: Sandwiches, cheese pizzas, salads, or burgers are common; Students can also bring snacks to school such as fruit cups, chips, or protein bars. These can help you to “recharge” during the class or passing time!

Dinner usually seemed as the “biggest” meal of the day in American culture. Host parents usually cook a full meal for the family with the main dish, side, and some greens. If your host parents are great cooks and are willing to try other country’s cuisine, lucky for you! You will have the opportunity to try Indian food, Mexican food, Japanese food and so on. If your belly can not be satisfied, you can always ask

permission to cook yourself! Sometimes making your own food is a comforting experience too.


Part 2, Key word: Commuting

It is important to let your host parents know your plan ahead of time.

Both in and outside of school, there will always be times when you need your host family to pick you up. School runs, weekends on the street, team events… Even though it is the host family’s responsibility to provide student commuting, they might have personal plans or schedule conflicts with the student’s needs. If you have a plan that needs a ride from your host parents, letting them know as early as possible would be helpful for them to figure out the schedule. So students should communicate well and appreciate the host parent’s effort when they provide a ride.

Friendly reminder: I know lots of students are curious about getting a driving license, but under Cambridge Network contrast, it is not allowed for high school students to drive on their own. Regarding the safety issues, unfortunately students have to wait to get a license in college. When needed, Uber, public transportation or a friend’s car are all good options to go around the town when your host parents can not provide transportation!


Part 3, Key word: Do Housework

Student quote: “The experience of studying abroad makes me more independent, because I need to take care of myself most of the time.”

Since we are living with our host family, we are part of the family too! So we should help everyone to do house work too: washing dishes, cleaning the carpet, or even cleaning the yard, etc. Different parents will have different expectations and rules for students, be sure to ask them for guidance and help when needed! I am sure host parents will greatly appreciate your help too~

When you are not sure about certain things at home, for example what soup to put in the laundry or whether you can cook at certain times, it is always a good idea to ask before action. Everyone would love to help you adjusting to the new household and enjoy your time in the new family!

Other panel discussions:

Q: I don’t know what to expect from religion in America.

A: Religion is also an important part of American culture. Students who want to learn more about American culture can choose to stay in a family with a religious background. Students who are not interested in this area need to make you

intentions clear when choosing a homestay and the agency teacher can help arrange the best family for you. While most families will respect your choice of religion, it is also important to keep an open heart and understand other’s viewpoints.


Q: How to balance social and personal time?

A: Having personal space for students is important! You can definitely spend quality time in the house or room, but it doesn’t mean that we encourage you to stay inside of the room the whole time! The home will respect the students’ leisure space, but also encourage students to socialize! Try to walk out from the house and explore other things as well! Take a walk in the neighborhood, grab a coffee with friends, or chat with host parents too. If you are having a hard time walking out from your room, please don’t hesitate talking to your FEA teacher about it, we would love to help and talk with you!


Q: I don’t know if I am a pet person

A: Yes, pets are super adorable. Many host families have cats, dogs and other pets. Petting a dog or cat, based on research, is good for distress people and comforting as well! Of course, there are also students who do not like pets. And it is totally fine too! If you feel like being around pet discomfort, you can always talk with host parents and even FEA teachers. We want to make sure you are feeling comfortable at home~


Some tips form the students:

“The best way to eliminate fear is to face it.”

“Being polite and mindful of your tone of voice will make it easier to communicate.”

“Say what you want directly. The implicit nature of Chinese language can lead to misinterpretation.”

“Learn to adapt to the environment instead of letting the environment adapt to you.”

“Every family has its own habits and rules, and communication is the best when it comes to difficulties.”

“Don’t stress too much; Remember that a new home is also a good choice! Be thoughtful and take responsibility for your decisions :)”

“If you need help or communication, you can contact Cambridge Union Students and teachers! We are always here for you.”


Teacher’s reminder and tips:

What should I consider when choosing a home?


Students have different tendencies when choosing a host family. Most students choose a family with higher income or a family with two working parents. But often the parents of such families have less free time, and their schedules are relatively fixed and not flexible enough. Different host families will offer different experiences, so students are also expected to be clear about what kind of family they want when choosing. Many students do not think about communicating with the family when they get along with the family, and blindly seek the understanding of the host family, which is the biggest reason for the conflict. Frictions and conflicts caused by cultural differences are understandable, but both sides need to show respect and friendliness, especially as boarding students.

Try to communicate better with others!

When trouble arises, try to communicate your inner thoughts with others. To prevent the accumulation of contradictions and concerns between the two sides. In the sharing of several senior students, we learned that sharing your confusion with a host family can really solve many unpleasant or small conflicts in life. Most host families are willing to listen to your voice and ideas. Host family can also get confused when there is no communication between the both sides for a long time: what is going on? Both sides may be waiting for the other to make the first move. Next time you have difficulties, try to communicate more with the resident/intermediary teacher/family!