How to Decide if You Should Live with a Host Family or in a Dorm

So you already have decided to study abroad.

Have you also decided where you will live?

Many study abroad programs will give you the housing options of living in a dormitory on your campus abroad or living with a host family (also called a homestay). Which study abroad housing you choose depends on your personality and what you want to accomplish during your time abroad.

Study Abroad Housing: What to Consider

Before you choose either a homestay or a dorm, determine why you are studying abroad.

  • Do you want to learn a foreign language?
  • Do you want primarily to sightsee?
  • Do you want to learn more about the culture of a foreign country?
  • Do you want to meet students from around the world?
  • Do you want to learn how families live or how students live?

These questions have no right or wrong answers, but your responses will determine which type of housing is right for you when you apply to study abroad.



  • You will learn a foreign language more quickly and with greater ease. You also will learn everyday words related to home and family life that you won’t pick up in a textbook.
  • You will experience the culture, customs and traditions of a country with a native family.
  • You will be able to view the foreign city and country through the eyes of a local.
  • You will receive authentic, home-cooked meals.


  • You may find it difficult to communicate at first, especially if your host family speaks little or no English.
  • You must abide by the family’s rules, no matter how strict they seem.
  • You may have a lengthy commute to your university.
  • You may be asked to eat unusual foods.



  • You will meet students from around the world, not only from your host country.
  • You will live on or near your university campus.
  • You will have more freedom and may not have to abide by rules as strict as those from a host family.
  • You may find it easier to make friends because you will be around students more often.


  • You may not find it as easy to practice a foreign language since you likely will be surrounded by students who have different native languages.
  • You may not have a roommate from the country where you are living.
  • You will eat in a cafeteria or purchase your own food.

You will find advantages to your stay in a foreign country no matter which study abroad housing option you choose. If you find disadvantages too bad to ignore, you can demand to live elsewhere.
Choose a housing option that most closely fulfills your reasons for studying abroad in the first place. Only then will you be likely to have a study abroad experience you will remember for all of the right reasons!