Determining if doing a homestay is right for you can be a challenging task and one that should not be taken lightly, however, it can produce extremely rewarding results both educationally and personally fulfilling. There are many dynamics that need to be considered before and while applying for homestay, such as, your own personal habits, lifestyle, and what you intend on getting out of your time in Japan.
The main intentions of doing a homestay is to help immerse yourself in a Japanese home, allowing you to experiencing everything from traditional and modern Japanese norms, customs, food, culture and lifestyle to extent that you may not get to experience as indepth if you were to stay in the seminar houses. Although there can varying experiences and expectations with homestay families, there is a certain level of commitment that is required.
While there are plenty of forms, surveys, and contracts to fill out prior to moving in with your family, as it was mentioned above, some families will having varying degrees of responsibilities required from you whether it be daily chores, family outings, or even curfews, other families could be quite the opposite, leaving you to your own accord.
Enjoy staying out late with friends, perhaps having a few drinks in downtown Osaka on weekends? Homestay likely isn’t the best option for you.
Strong desire to develop or strengthen your Japanese language skills? A homestay can give you the best opportunity to practice your Japanese on daily basis outside of classes.
Are you a picky eater or have a delicate/refined diet? It’s important to remember that while maybe few families may be willing to accomodate your needs, meals are made for everyone rather than individuals.
Some obligations with host families can sometimes make it difficult to fulfill other social interactions with your friends. It’s important that you’re able to find time for both if you desire to stay with a Japanese family
Former Homestay Students
Every homestay experience is different. This is very important to keep in mind when deciding whether or not you want to stay with one. The families vary, and the dynamics can change from host family to host family. Some host families will try to take care of you just as though you were one of their own, and others will leave you to your own devices. Both styles have their pros and cons.
Before arriving at Kansai Gaidai, if you decide to stay with a host family, you will fill out paperwork for the request and be required to fill out a survey. This will help them determine your eligibility for staying with a family. They will also send you some handouts cautioning you about staying with a family. This tells you to keep in mind your own habits, and is extremely important.
Staying with a host family gives you “speaking partners” that you can practice your Japanese with on a daily basis. Not all exchange students are required to have a background of studying Japanese, and not all host families know English. One portion of the form will ask how much English fluency you want your family to have, ranging from zero English to partial fluency to complete fluency. Keep in mind your own fluency, but also how much fluency you want to
achieve in your study abroad. Sometimes taking a risk can have amazing results (or disastrous! Everyone is different, afterall).
Being a picky eater could be difficult on a host parent to make meals for you. Just like in many families, meals are made for everyone (not just an individual). Asking them to make lots of rules and exceptions for one person could be a burden for them.
If you want to go out and not spend a lot of time at home, that defeats part of the purpose of staying with the family. Staying with a family comes with the expectation that you would go on
outings together, practice your language skills, or perhaps help with chores. This all depends on the family and what they want to do, but this kind of possibility is extremely important to bear in mind when deciding. If you don’t want to report your movements to your new “parents,” (because they will want to know that you are okay and whether or not they should cook enough food for you), then staying with a family might not be the right fit for you.
Upon arriving at Kansai Gaidai, one last round of forms were passed out to reconfirm whether or not you want to stay with a family. Host families can be hard to find, so they want to make absolutely certain that you want to stay with one. During orientation week, you will receive your host family assignment, with a brief description of them. This will give you information such as how old they are, what they do, what are their hobbies, whether or not they have pets and the like. You will also receive a copy of the host family and student agreement form. This is very important to read carefully and decide what options you would prefer to have. It includes many aspects of staying with a family such as chore distribution, house expectations, eating preferences, dinner time and so on and so forth.
The day you meet your host family is also the day you move in with them for the semester if everything goes well. The family also received a copy of the agreement, and will have filled it out. The student and family will meet along with a mediator, and will discuss and hammer out all of the details of the contract. It’s very important to speak up about any concerns you might have at this time. Feelings will only be hurt more when you realize that you really should have pushed for a different dinner time half way through the semester, than if you had said something before signing. You can’t predict everything, but trusting your own instincts can go a long way. My own host family was an elderly couple in their seventies. I called them Okaasan and Otousan (mom and dad in Japanese), and they were very friendly and sweet. Otousan had a flying squirrel that lived in his shirt pocket named Monchan, and Okaasan did tea ceremony at the house from time to time. Okaasan made a traditional Japanese breakfast almost every day, and lots of different traditional Japanese dinners. In the evenings I would get back from school in time for dinner, and then we would watch Japanese TV before I went to my room to do homework. My own family decided to not let me help with after dinner clean up, but I did take care of my own room and laundry. They had hosted several students in the past, and I generally enjoyed the system they had in place. On some weekends I went out with them to different local landmarks, but after the first few weeks I tended to make plans with my friends. Spending time with them and learning from them was an invaluable experience, and I will always be glad that I did it.