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 usually 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.
«I had an absolutely wonderful homestay family and experience. My hosts have been the most welcoming, thoughtful, caring host parents and were very helpful in introducing us to life in Berlin. They were very accommodating to dietary/living needs and helped to integrate us into German culture while learning more about our own culture. I feel very fortunate to have stayed with such a lovely family.»
«My hosts were really nice, polite, friendly and attentive with me. Not only did I have a great time with all of them, but I also had the opportunity to improve my German, which is still not perfect, but it’s much better and I’m super happy about that. We did a lot of things together like going to parties, watching movies, having dinners, travelling to Quedlinburg, visiting the city and many other things! Moreover, they told me a lot of stories about Berlin, Germany and their culture, so I could get in touch with the culture and of course, explore it!»
«I really enjoyed my stay with my host mother. She was super accommodating and made my stay in Berlin really comfortable. I was allowed to have my own freedom as an adult, and I was able to enjoy some time with her; there was a great balance. I also really enjoyed the food that she made. She also helped me with my essays, which I really appreciated. I couldn't have asked for a better host mum.»
«I was very happy overall with how the homestay program ran and felt very comfortable with approaching the homestay coordinator with any problems. As for living with my host mum, I cannot express how amazing of an experience it was. She is so caring and kind and pushed me to go out every day and explore Berlin. If it wasn’t for her, I probably would not have gone out as much as I did. My host was very helpful with my German and was very encouraging in speaking with her.»
More testimonials can be found here.
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.