When studying overseas at an ESL school, you will have to determine what type of living arrangements you prefer. Depending on the school that you select, you will be able to choose from different accommodations including a homestay with a host family, student residence/dormitory, hotel/guest house, or an apartment depending on the length of your stay. Each option provides you with pros and cons which we will discuss to help you determine the best fit for you!
Homestay with a Host Family
Traveling is not only the best way to learn a language, but also gives you the opportunity to understand the customs and traditions firsthand as you learn about the world around you. The easiest way to do this is by placing yourself in an environment where you will interact with the locals on a day to day basis. Many English language schools give students the opportunity to do this by living in a home with a local family.
Accommodations will vary depending on the host family so you will want to ask your school what to expect. Some families will have a private room with a shared bathroom, other families have a shared bathroom but private room, or in other cases you may share a room with another student or family members. If you have accommodation preferences, be sure to contact the school and express your interest.
Depending on what type of living arrangements you are looking for during your ESL program, this may be a good option to learn about the culture in a more comfortable and intimate way. With most homestays, breakfast and dinner (and sometimes lunch) will be included with the accommodation fee. For many families, this means eating meals together, sampling the local cuisine, and having daily interactions in English. Many English language programs have a high criterion for interested host families which include regular check-ins, interviews, and evaluations from previous students.
Here is a comparison of the pros and cons of living with a host family:
- 1. Pros:
- You will pick up the language faster since you will have more exposure, a comfortable atmosphere and an environment that will force you to practice your English on a daily basis
- You can get advice and tips on things to do in and around the community from the local prospective
- Your host family can also provide you with advice on safety guiding you on where to go – and where not to go
- Provides the foundation to form long-lasting bonds between you and your host family
- Opportunity to learn about family from the local prospective – and the chance to become family as well!
- Living with a host family also means trying the local foods that you may have not tasted otherwise
- 2. Cons:
- You may feel at first uncomfortable as you are in a new environment, culture and family that may take some time to adjust to
- As a member of the family, you are now subject to the home rules as any other family member
- You may not like the meals being served
- Under extreme circumstances you may not get along with your host family
If you are concerned about the cons of living with a host family but you’d like the experience living with a host family, you may want to consider speaking to your school about the placement procedure. You will want to find out how families are selected and what the minimum requirements are to be a host family. Once you have established that the host family selection process is reputable, you will then want to ask how students are matched with the host family. Does the school match students based on a preference evaluation form? What happens if you are allergic to pets, what is the likelihood of being placed in a home with pets? What if you would prefer to stay with a family with no kids? Be sure to voice your concerns and see how placement is done. Lastly, you will want to see what the school procedure is if you are unsatisfied with the placement. Can you be switched to another family or alternative living option should you decide to switch midway through the program? By understanding the process, you will feel more comfortable knowing that you have the support of your English language school to pack you as you grow and develop in your new environment.
If you are looking to have a more international experience, you may find that student residences are a great option as you can share quality housing with students from around the world. Especially during the summer months, you will find these dormitories filled with students from all around the world. If your language school is located on a college campus, you will have the opportunity to meet many of the local students. This can be especially rewarding if you are interested in applying to the college/university and are looking to get an insight into the student life.
Typically these living arrangements are equipped with other nearby facilities such as a walkable campus, laundry facilities, study room, shared kitchen space, security, etc. In some student residences, you may also have internet or television available as well. Because dormitories are typically on campuses, many schools will give you the option to use the campus facilities however we recommend that you contact your school directly to confirm.
There are many types of student residences with different dormitory options, room setup, and facility accessibility. You will find that most dormitories will offer shared or single occupancy rooms. If you are looking for the social feel with more privacy, then you may want to consider a single occupancy room.If you are looking for a more budgeted option or if you enjoy the social environment, you may just make your best friend for the program. Dormitories, also referred to as dorms, are a good way to make friends and to have a more social experience.
Here is a comparison of the pros and cons of living with a student residence/dormitory:
- 1. Pros:
- You will have the ability to make friends from all around the world and will have an instant community of people to travel with and explore your new town
- Living in a dormitory/student residence will give you more of an independent living option than living at a homestay
- You will have access to many of the on-campus facilities that are conveniently located to your residence
- If located on the campus of a college or university, you will have the opportunity to get a feel for the campus and the people if you are interested in continuing your academic degree at the school
- You will most likely have a residential assistance that can assist you should you have any questions or concerns
- Living expenses tend to be less expenses than other living options
- 2. Cons:
- Socializing is a way of live or student residences – even if you want some time to yourself
- Privacy can be difficult, especially if you are sharing a room with someone
- Noise can be an issue with thin walls making quiet time hard to come by
- Showers and bathrooms are usually shared
- Dormitories are typically small spaces, especially if you are sharing the space with another person that you do not know
- Roommate issues are possible, contact your school to see the procedure should you want to change rooms midway through your program
If you are interested in living in a student dormitory, we recommend contacting the school to see what is offered with your room. Do you need to bring your own linens, pillows, lights, or towels? While most dormitories offer most of the appliances, you will want to see what is provided and what you may need to bring or purchase for the room. You may also want to see what a typical room is designed with. Do you have a desk to do your homework or will a study room be available that will give you some quiet space? If not, you will want to see what facilities are available nearby should you need quiet space to do your work.
If you are planning to do a short-term English language program, you may find that either a hotel or guesthouse would be the best option. This offers independent living with more security than a homestay or student residence. The environment is often less social offering a retreat should you need to come home after a day of intense English language classes. A guesthouse is usually a small, separate house on the grounds of a larger house or establishment, used for paying guests. Contrarily, a hotel provides living accommodations and in some cases meals and other services onsite for visitors. Some hotels do not just provide lodging but may also include a restaurant, health and fitness facilities, and a swimming pool. You will also have daily room cleaning service to help keep your room tidy with either a guesthouse or hotel. If you intend to do your own cooking, you will need to ask about facilities on site. While guesthouses may have a communal kitchen, it is unlikely that you will have your own kitchen unless specifically requested.
Here is a comparison of the pros and cons of living in a hotel/guesthouse:
- You will have a place to come home to that is quiet and private
- Offers independent living to come and do as you please without any household/dormitory rules and regulations
- You will have a secure and private area for your belongings
- If you stay in a hotel, you may have complimentary breakfast, health and fitness facilities and use of the swimming pool
- Since you will be living independently, you will not automatically have a social environment – this would be something you’d need to seek out independently.
- Hotels/Guesthouses may not be as conveniently located to your ESL school requiring additional transportation and commute time
- This option tends to be more expensive, especially long term
- You will most likely come in contact with more foreigners than locals – language practicing may be more difficult
If you do not mind paying a little extra, the hotel or guesthouse may be a good option for a short-term course. You will want to contact the hotel or guesthouse to see the amenities that are available as a guest – is internet/Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast, health and fitness facilities, swimming pool access included in the room? You will also want to request additional information on the room layout – does your room come with a desk, private bathroom, and kitchen facilities? Once you have found a hotel/guestroom that will work well for you, you will also make sure that the location is convenient to your school and activities you may participate in while enrolled in your English language program.
Apartment living is well designed for students who are looking for independent living and who will be doing a longer term program. Depending on the apartment setup and location, you can either have your own apartment or share the apartment with roommates. If you decide to share, you will still have the option to have your own bedroom or you can share with another person to cut on costs. This is a great way to get the privacy you are looking for and to incorporate a social component into your daily living.
Here is a comparison of the pros and cons of living in an apartment:
- You will have the option to choose your privacy level from having your own apartment or your own room. If you decide to share, chances are you will only have a few roommates which in many cases you will be able to choose.
- Apartment living offers the most independent living allowing you to make your own schedule without household or dormitory rules and regulations
- Many students like to separate school from their social life. Living in an apartment will allow you to separate school from independent living
- You will typically have more space if you live in an apartment as compared to a student residence
- Since you will be living independently, you will not automatically have a social environment. If you have roommates then you will have a lesser extent of a community as compared to a student residency.
- If you are living with students from your home country, you may not practice English as frequently as you would in a homestay.
- You will be responsible for cooking and cleaning. If you have roommates, you will be responsible for organizing this.
- Utilities are more expensive and may not be included in the rent.
- You may have an unfurnished apartment that will require you to provide your own furniture, kitchen and bath necessities. If this is the case, this can be quite expensive.
- Transportation to and from classes can be more difficult, especially if public transportation is poor or a big city has heavy traffic
Before deciding on an apartment, you will want to think about the financial considerations that may be associated with apartment living. First, you will need to determine whether the apartment is furnished or unfurnished. If the apartment is unfurnished, think about all the expenses necessary including furniture, dishes, silverware, bathroom supplies, lamps, desks, etc. There is a large start up cost if you decide that you’d like to rent an unfurnished building. If you plan to share the apartment with roommates, how will expenses be divided? Who will get what when you no longer rent the apartment? If you plan to rent a furnished apartment, you will want to know what is provided. Do you have a desk, bed, and television? Once you have determined the specifics, you will want to determine the expenses associated with maintaining the apartment. Does your rent include utilities? If not, how much is electric, sewer, cable, Wi-Fi, water, etc? Who will be responsible for paying these items and what is the penalty if for late payments? You will also want to know the length of the lease as well as the penalty should you need to break the lease? An important consideration as well is to see whether you can sublet the apartment should you choose to leave earlier than your lease period. Additionally, you will want to determine the proximity of your apartment to your English language classes, grocery store, bank, etc.