The best way for students to prepare for living abroad is to read their program’s pre-departure information carefully. Students should find out whether they will be living with local students, with other American students, or with a family. Students should also remember that they will be expected to follow local customs, and respect the property and privacy of those they live with, regardless of their housing situation.
If a student encounters a problem with their housing abroad that they can not readily resolve on their own, they should inform their program staff right away and/or contact Whitman Off-Campus Studies. It is best to address housing problems early so that they can be resolved.
What should students know about Residence Halls abroad?
- Residence halls overseas will probably have different policies than those at Whitman and may be more restrictive. For example, they may have a curfew or visitors may not be allowed in students’ rooms.
- Students who keep their room and commonly used spaces such as the bathroom and kitchen tidy will go a long way to developing positive relationships with their roommates.
- Whitman students living with local students should keep in mind that these individuals have most likely already spent one or more years at the university, and have already made close friends. It will take special sensitivity and effort on behalf of students from the US who attend a local university for just a semester or year to establish friendships. Whitman students should try to take the initiative with making friendships, and be patient.
What should students know about Apartment-style housing abroad?
- Apartment-style housing provided by off-campus studies programs may have more restrictions than students would expect. For instance, if the apartment is within a normal residential building with ordinary city residents, students may find quiet hours are strictly enforced so that families can sleep.
- Students should not assume that friends or family members will be able to stay with them while abroad, even if living in an apartment with other U.S. students.
- Privacy norms vary and tenants’ rights are often much more limited abroad than they are in the U.S. For example, it is not uncommon in some countries for the landlord to enter an apartment without prior notice or permission.
What should students know about homestay experiences?
- Homestays can be one of the most rewarding aspects of the study abroad experience, providing invaluable insight into the language, customs, and values of a society. While most programs seek families who are interested in hosting an American for reasons other than their monetary compensation, students should realize that homestay experiences vary widely depending on the expectations of the family, those of the student, and on the local conditions.
- In some instances, a homestay experience will be more like a tenant-landlord relationship. In other families, the student may even be treated like a son or daughter of the family.
- As in the U.S., families with young children often do not live downtown. Students should not be surprised if they are placed with a “non-traditional” family such as an elderly widow or retired couple.
- In all homestays students should remember that even though they are a guest, they will be expected to follow the rules of the family. This may include a curfew, asking permission to have a friend visit the house, keeping the host family posted on evening plans/timing, and keeping bedrooms room tidy.
- Students should remember that host parents may truly worry if the student does not let them know when they are planning to return home late or go out of town. Students should be considerate and keep the host family informed of their schedule.
- Students should also be aware that notions of privacy may be quite different from what you are accustomed to in your host culture.
- The household items that students have access to as a guest may be quite different from what would be the case in an American home. For example, students should not assume they can use the kitchen, help themselves to food in the refrigerator or use appliances, like the clothes washer. It is best to err on the side of caution and ask permission before using family items.
- Clear communications directly with your host family or through your program staff can help prevent problems.