7 Surprising Benefits of Hosting Homestay Students

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Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

Why do I think you’ll love hosting students? 

Well, the obvious answer is it can earn you extra income. But I’d argue that’s not even the best benefit. In fact, I’ve got a list of 7 non-monetary benefits that come from hosting (some of which I bet you’d never guess)!

If you’re on the fence about becoming a homestay host, read on. I’ll have you fully convinced by the end of this post!

1. Learn about the world—in the comfort of your own home

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Photo by Capturing the Human Heart on Unsplash

How else could you learn so much about the world without ever leaving your house? We’ve hosted students from countless cities, spread across 16 countries and five continents.

Our students tell us about their families and daily lives; their countries’ problems and achievements; their unique customs and foods—and so much more.

We’re so grateful to have had our eyes opened, our beliefs expanded, and cultural stereotypes smashed. 

In learning about the differences and similarities between our cultures, our empathy and understanding have increased. (And our children are learning about the world in a way that a textbook could never match.)

2. Experience dishes you won’t see on a menu

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Nikujaga’s one of our favourite ‘unknown’ Japanese dishes
Photo by Jo de Coro via flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

We’re huge foodies, and this is one of our very-most-favourite reasons for hosting.

Many of our students’ most-loved dishes from home are just that—home cooking. They’re usually comfort foods that aren’t found in restaurant menus (at least not outside their countries of origin).

With our students’ help, we find recipes to make these dishes with them. While the results aren’t always perfect, the experience is always educational and fun.

Sometimes we’ll luck out, and a student will offer to cook a favourite meal for us. Not only do we get a night off from cooking, but we also get a free cooking class!

Our palates and repertoire of delicious dishes has increased exponentially thanks to our students. (And as a result, our kids are just about the least picky eaters we know!)

3. Free worldwide accommodations

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Our student Misato’s pretty Tokyo apartment (spacious by Tokyo standards!)

This was the most unexpected benefit of all. We had no idea that hosting students could one day lead to free travel accommodations!

It all started when Misato, one of our longtime Japanese students, kept returning to Vancouver (sometimes twice a year).

We jokingly said that next time, she should swap her Tokyo apartment for our house. To our complete surprise… she agreed!

In March 2018, we headed to Japan while Misato flew over for another visit to Canada. We enjoyed 16 incredible days in her apartment in central Tokyo while she had our entire house to herself.

We lived like locals, experienced a taste of what it’s like to live in the world’s biggest metropolis, and fell in love with Japan.  

As a house swap, it couldn’t have been more ideal: swapping with a good friend whom you know and trust… who knows your house and city inside out already? AH-MA-ZING!

4. Local guides all over the world

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Our student Miki helping the boys pick ice cream at Baskin Robbins in Asakusa, Tokyo

When we visited Japan, we met up with seven (!) of our former students.

Each of them gave us unique, local experiences that we wouldn’t have had otherwise: a magical hanami picnic under the sakura trees; delicious, authentic home-cooked meals; a visit to an onsen (public bath where clothing is not allowed!)… and so much more.

As with our house swapping experience, we couldn’t have predicted that hosting students would lead to this.

Now that our kids are older and can appreciate world travel, we can’t wait to visit more of our students in their home countries (Korea, Brazil, Switzerland… so many options, too little time!)

5. Expose your kids (and yourselves) to different people and ways of life

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Photo by rawpixel at Pexels

This is similar to my first point about learning about the world—but different.

What I’m talking about here is teaching your kids (and yourselves) about tolerance and the world that opens up when you have a curious and welcoming mind.

Sharing your home with international visitors is at once puzzling, eye-opening, and fascinating. You realize that ‘different’ is neither bad nor good—it just is.

Through our students, we’ve explored differences in opinion, culture, clothing, dietary choices, beliefs, politics, personal habits, and more. These experiences have taught us the value of being flexible and open-minded.

I think these are wonderful and important life lessons for kids, and good reminders for all of us. Living with students naturally brings these lessons into your life.

6. See your city from a whole new perspective

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Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge—one of our favourite (free!) places to take our students
Photo by bill@ontheroadin via flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

It’s so much fun sharing favourite local haunts with newcomers. When they delight in things that you find mundane and familiar, it’s as if you’re seeing them for the first time again.

You learn to appreciate all that’s around you in a totally new way, and helps you realize how fortunate you are to live in a place that people come from far and wide to see.

We take pride in being unofficial ambassadors for Vancouver. It’s another way we make our job of hosting that much more meaningful and rewarding.

7. Friends (and family) for life

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I never thought I’d one day take this picture: Kid 1 playing with our student Mari’s baby in her beautiful Tokyo home

I saved the best for last! This is hands-down our favorite reason for hosting students.

When you welcome students into your home, they become part of your family. Our students referred to our boys as their little brothers and give us Mother’s and Father’s Day cards. M’s mom even refers to one of our students as her ‘Brazilian son’!

We keep in touch with many of our students, and follow along as they graduate, find careers, get married, and start families. When they return for visits, it’s like no time has passed—even if it’s been a decade.

These cherished relationships are what warms my heart most when I think about our students. It’s the biggest reason why we find hosting so rewarding. You can’t put a price on that.

The true value of hosting isn’t in the money

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Our dear Swiss ‘daughter’ Tanja with 1-year-old Kid 1 (we adore Tanja and still keep in touch with her)

We couldn’t have imagined all the intangible benefits that our wonderful students have brought into our lives. We’re better humans and more thoughtful citizens of the world because of what they’ve taught us. 

I hope my article’s helped you to see the less-obvious (but arguably most valuable) benefits of hosting students. There aren’t many side hustles as fun, rewarding, and educational as this (and that the whole family can take part in!)

Want to know more?

The next article will answer all your questions about the financial aspects of homestay hosting. Or read through the entire Homestay Series to learn everything you need to know about hosting. 

And as always, feel free to comment below if you have questions, feedback, or topic suggestions. I’m happy to help!

Wondering how much we earn hosting homestay students? Curious about how hosts get paid? Is hosting even worth doing? I’ll share the numbers and tell all.

Looking for a house hack/side hustle that you can do from home? Homestay hosting is an amazing ‘job’ that fits the bill (plus it’ll get you to FI sooner)!

Go back to The Homestay Series homepage to jump to another article.

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