One of the best parts about spending a semester with Verto Education is getting to see everything a country has to offer. Unlike on study abroad programs, with Verto students won’t be confined to one place for the duration of their stay. Rather, they will go from the city to the countryside, and occasionally venturing out to see indigenous communities in the most rural environments.
Part of the fun of traveling all around the country is getting the opportunity to stay in all different kinds of accommodations. From ecolodges, to base houses, hotels, and even dorms on international college campuses – students will come away from their semester abroad having thoroughly experienced all the country has to offer.
While students enjoy the beachside accommodations, and base houses with their own pool or live-in chef, one of the most impactful experiences they have time and time again is living with host families.
For incoming students, this can be one of the more nerve wracking parts of the semester abroad. What will the house be like? Will I get along with the family? What if I don’t speak the language?
Every semester will have two homestay opportunities, ranging from 5 days to 10 days. Students will also always have at least one other student with them, sometimes even four or five depending on the home.
Homestays are a fabulous way to be immersed in a different culture, enjoy homemade local cuisine and learn a little foreign language. Many students even stay in touch with their homestay families long after they are back in the United States on their college campus. But don’t take it from me, here’s what our Verto alumni have to say:
How Does Verto Decide on Homestay Hosts?
Verto’s homestay partners are evaluated using a thorough vetting process to ensure student accommodations meet our rigorous health, safety, and security standards. Before identifying homes, we first consider communities by assessing safety and accessibility, and gauging interest from community leaders about their desire to host students.
After confirming communities’ interest in becoming homestay sites, we conduct thorough site visits. Homes must meet the following guidelines:
– Private areas for students separated from the rest of the home by a door or divider
– Access to a clean toilet and handwashing station in or near the home
– No signs of animal or infestation, and maintain basic cleanliness standards
– Filtered and clean water for cooking and consumption
Homestay families are also subject to background checks with local authorities to make ensure the highest level of safety.
Before students arrive, after homestay sites have been evaluated and selected, the Verto Education team meets with families to discuss expectations for them during student visits. We will provide emergency contact information, address allergies, and other health issues that students could experience while staying in their homes, and establish behavioral and cultural expectations.
During the homestay, host families and students continue to provide feedback. Our team continues developing relationships with our host family partners between student visits. In many cases, we will use a single homestay family for multiple years resulting in a truly unique and welcoming environment.
What Are Expectation for Students?
While Verto carefully and thoroughly reviews communities and homestay sites, it’s important for students to remember that people are welcoming them into their homes and their lives. Students are required to:
– Stay in homes overnight and should be there by the agreed upon time
– Ask the host family before inviting any visitors into the house; outside visitors aren’t allowed to spend the night
– Carry their emergency contact cards at all times
– Report illnesses or concerns immediately
Students should also keep the local culture and cultural norms in mind during their stays and when interacting with their host families. They should be respectful and flexible at all times and abide by any additional rules their host families may have.
Homestay experiences can be challenging on many levels, from navigating the language barrier to understanding and adopting different cultural norms. Nonetheless, these are the challenges that typically are most enriching for students and the communities that host them. Lifelong friendships and a deep appreciation of different ways of life are one of the most enduring and life-changing experiences that can be gained.