The Three Pillars
Host Family Experience
Students are matched with a compatible host family to live the host culture through daily interaction, meals, evening and weekend activities. For many students, their host family becomes their second home and a foundation for lifelong friendship.
Though taking classes exclusively in the foreign language is beneficial, living with a host family forces students to speak the foreign language with native speakers in real-life situations on a daily basis. Such spontaneous and natural conversation inevitably contributes to the students' linguistic progress.
Living with a host family enables students to experience the culture of the host country firsthand. Students are introduced to new foods, local holidays, the experience of daily household activities and social customs, enabling them to assimilate more quickly to the host culture.
A host family's companionship and emotional support may help alleviate the homesickness students will inevitably experience during the first few days or even weeks of the program. Students can rely on their host families' daily activities to keep them engaged and “in the moment,” rather than thinking about how much they miss their customs, traditions and daily routines of life in their home country.
”Sarah came home from San Luis Potosí a changed person. She realizes that she has mastered conversational Spanish and Mexican slang. She often dreams in Spanish and watches Spanish television. Our expectations as parents from IUHPFL were fully realized. She gained self-confidence and became more introspective. She made lasting friendships, both Mexican and American. The devoted faculty and her Mexican family monitored her both emotionally and physically.” — Craig Stoops, Parent of Sarah, San Luis Potosí 2010
Living with a Host Family
To say that living with a host family is challenging is an understatement. Both student and host family are required to communicate openly about aspects of daily life to realize a successful host family stay. Students are required to be flexible and willing to step out of their comfort zone when living with a host family. No matter how different or similar a host family's composition is from that of a student's U.S. family, some cultural differences and potential misunderstandings will inevitably surface and require resolution. Students should keep an open mind and a sense of humor. Expecting to make some mistakes while making an honest effort in communicating openly with their host families will help students overcome such obstacles much easier.
Living with a host family and integrating oneself into the host family's environment requires hard work, effort and time. It is not the same as simply coming and going from the family's home when one pleases, using the host family's home as a source for meals and a place to sleep.
While being a part of the host family implies feeling comfortable in a host family's home, it also implies following household norms, as well as participating in family activities, including meals and chores like a member of the family. In fact, IUHPFL host families agree to host program students under the assumption that the student shows a genuine interest in living with another family, is communicative, open-minded and flexible.
Selection of Host Families
All IUHPFL host families at the ten program sites are vetted and selected by native onsite coordinators. Host families are chosen on the basis of their willingness to help IUHPFL students assimilate to the host culture, learn the foreign language and uphold the Honor Code. The program emphasizes finding suitable host families who wish to invite a U.S. student into their home as another member of the family. IUHPFL host families receive monetary compensation for their hospitality. All host families agree to follow the IUHPFL host family guidelines.
Students and host families are matched by the onsite coordinator of each site. The onsite coordinator seeks to find the most compatible arrangement based on the IUHPFL student's Personal Information Form, a form submitted with the student's acceptance materials, and the coordinator's knowledge of the host family's hobbies and interests. If a student is selected to participate in the program, it is of utmost importance that s/he completes the Personal Information Form as honestly and thoroughly as possible to give the onsite coordinator an accurate depiction of him or herself. Should a student be accepted into the IUHPFL, an extensive dialogue regarding the host family experience and its specific challenges and rewards will take place at the IUHPFL Orientation.