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A Glimpse Of The Chinese Homestay Scheme For International Students

The article, through the following aspects, aims to unfold some facts that international students lodge with a local family in China -

Why has China started to encourage a homestay scheme for overseas students?

As China's political and economic position in the world becomes more dominant than ever, with the infiltration of its trade and culture into the West, many foreigners are enticed by the country and each year plenty of overseas students go there and study. According to the statistics in 2018, about 492,185 foreign students from 196 countries and regions studied in 1004 colleges and universities in 31 provinces of China. Some of them wish to carve out a career in the country following higher education accomplishment.

While studying in China, these international students aged 15-22 hope to live with a Chinese family, with the aim of quickly improving their Chinese language skills, integrating into local society and communities, understanding the country’s culture, customs and the local daily life and networking with Chinese people, etc. Likewise, the Chinese host family can also benefit from the scheme, i.e. the school children of the family will be given an opportunity to pick up foreign languages and the culture of the countries from which the foreign students come.

In a recent decade, a local homestay scheme started to emerge and popularize in big cities of China, like Beijing and Shanghai. The accommodation model, originated in European and American regions decades ago, provides foreign students with a local family’s home and essential living facilities during their study, in order to improve the life skills the students need to have in the local area. In 1970s, the family hosting started to occur and receive widespread acceptance in Southeast Asia, like South Korea and Japan.

With the continuous development of international education industry and the rising number of overseas students, the Chinese government has released the policies and regulations which lifted some restrictions on local residents taking in foreign people or international students as lodgers inside their own houses. The newly reviewed policies and rules perfectly marry with the China’s policy of opening the country to the world and exert a positive impact on its social development inside the country.

What makes an eligible Chinese host family?

To be able to apply to join in the homestay scheme, a Chinese family need to meet the criteria below:

1. All family members are healthy, friendly, hospitable and keen to understand and respect the culture and customs of foreign countries

2. The family members have no reluctance to treat the overseas students as their own family

3. The family can provide a stable and harmonious living environment, with reliable financial incomes

4. The family have good housing conditions and have spare rooms available for the foreign students, including daily furniture, facilities and Wi-Fi

5. The applicant family have to reside in the 1st and 2nd tier cities

6. At least one of the family members can speak a certain level of the foreign languages and can converse with the foreign students in basic subjects

7. The family members need to help the foreign students understand Chinese culture and customs and adapt them to daily routines of the family.

What types of homestay are available in China?

1. Free homestay

Some Chinese host families take an interest in wanting their school children or themselves as white-collar office workers to improve their foreign language skills by providing free homestay to the foreign students in an exchange of free language tuition, which means the host families will receive 1-hour free language lessons per week from the foreign students. Take Shanghai as an example, the English lesson from a native English speaker costs 200-250 Yuan/hour. As the cost of taking in a foreigner per month is about 1,000 yuan, the accommodation charge will be offset by the tuition cost.

2. Charged homestay

The families hosting the foreign students must speak Mandarin with them as the students paying for the homestay scheme aim to polish up their Chinese abilities and understand Chinese culture and customs. The charge varies from 1,500 to 2,000 Yuan monthly, based on the location, family facilities, community and provision of a spare bathroom, etc. The most popular residential areas are those of near downtown, the underground and overseas students’ schools, etc.

3. Experience 1-week homestay like a Chinese local

The foreign students can choose to live like the native Chinese by staying with a local family for 7 days and experience the Chinese-style lifestyle and learn some skills from the family, such as cooking Chinese food of dumplings and steamed buns, Chinese calligraphy, traditional musical instruments and folk crafts, etc.

How do overseas students find a trust-worthy host family in China?

The overseas students can find a reliable Chinese host family through their Chinese language school in China. The host families recommended by the school have been stringently screened, such as, the family members’ physical health, caring and friendly qualities, living environment and space and how many kids or pets, etc. Also, if there are conflicts between the students and the host family, the school will act as a mediator between two parties, or help the students find an alternative family. During the application for a homestay scheme, the students can inform the school of their special requirements, for instance, diet habit, pet tolerance, location or communities, etc.

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