Why a homestay? As far as study abroad housing is concerned, this is certainly one of the most frequently asked questions! Spending a semester or even a full academic year abroad is bound to be an adventurous journey into a new and unfamiliar cultural and social environment, with or without a homestay. Yet a homestay can add immeasurably to the experience. More than apartment housing, it almost guarantees linguistic and social immersion, providing you with unrivalled opportunities at improving your language and intercultural skills. It can also be comforting to be with a family when confronting the often inevitable moments of homesickness. When you are for some reason physically ill, a host-family can be an important care-giving environment.
At the same time, of course, a homestay does somewhat reduce your range of freedom and independence, since you are expected to behave like a member of the family. Even if you can normally more or less come and go as you please, you do assume the responsibility of maintaining solid communication with your hosts about your presence at or absence from the home, especially when meals are involved. You would always have your own key and your own room. Bathroom (and other) facilities may or may not be shared with others in the home. Rarely would you have a private telephone line, so here, too, a considerate attitude vis-a-vis your hosts is important (especially including payment for any long-distance and overseas calls you make). Many host-families offer to undertake various activities with their guests, ranging from sightseeing to concert visits, although this is not a formal program expectation; it is always courteous and interesting to accept at least a few of such invitations, and in return, to offer your host-family a glimpse of your home country or region, for example by cooking some specialty from home!
As with any housing option, in other words, there are pros and cons to weigh!
My name is Carola and I have been working as a homestay coordinator for different programs for many years. I run my own business under the name of HSB/Homestay Service Berlin UG and the FU-BEST program is one of my oldest clients. I am a teacher by profession and taught French and English at a Gymnasium for a long time. In the 1990s I spent some time in England working as an exchange teacher at a comprehensive school. I have an adult daughter and I am one of the few real 'Berliners' in the FU-BEST team and thus know the city and its people and mentality very well. I try to make the most of this when choosing suitable host families for you.