Homestays in Ireland
Return to Cultural Enrichment
Following the orientation period, students are placed in a brief homestay with an Irish family. This experience is meant to help you:
- Develop broader insight into Ireland and its people.
- Discover a region different from where you will be studying.
- Garner a greater appreciation of Irish culture.
- Participate in what has been, for many past students, a highlight of their overseas experience.
We hope you will make an active effort to be "one of the family" -- not a tourist, but a student interested in finding out more about the Irish way of life. Homestays are located throughout Ireland, some in rural, some in suburban, and some in urban communities. No two homestays are ever really the same, but yours should deepen your understanding of the culture and community you are entering. Many homestay families host a number of students over a period of several years because they have found the experience to be so enjoyable. Some of our students maintain contact with their homestay families even after returning to the United States. If scheduling prohibits a homestay before classes begin, we will make sure to arrange this experience for you later in the semester.
Experiment in International Living
Founded in 1932, World Learning Inc. is an independent, world-wide organization which aims to promote international understanding through direct cross-cultural interaction.
Each year about 25,000 people participate in its various programs. One of these programs is the homestay, which affords visitors the opportunity to live with a host family. The daily routines of family life provide greater insight into the larger culture.
Our homestays are arranged by World Learning's Irish division, the Experiment in International Living (EIL). EIL houses visitors with families throughout Ireland. All participating families have volunteered to open their homes to international visitors. They receive a small stipend to cover such extra costs as food. Prospective hosts are interviewed by EIL representatives, and homes are visited to ensure they meet acceptable standards of comfort. You should not, however, assume your family will have the same amenities that you enjoy at home. EIL actively seeks diversity in its host families, so grandparents, single parents and young working couples, many with children still living at home, all take part in the homestay program. They represent all sorts of homes, from working class to very well off. While your host family may come from very different economic or cultural circumstances than you, be certain that they share your interest in learning more about people from different parts of the world.
Your Homestay Assignment
EIL will match you with a host family or host couple (ie. older parents, etc.) based on information you provide in your homestay questionnaire. You will receive your homestay assignment when you arrive in Dublin. You will not be assigned to Dublin or, in most cases, the city where you will be studying. Most, if not all, students enrolled in your program will be assigned to the same town. Frequently, two visiting students are paired with a single host family. You will travel as a group to your assigned town and, at the end of your homestay, to your program site.
Your Homestay Questionnaire
In order to match you with a family which shares some of your interests, we request that you complete the enclosed homestay questionnaire and return it with your intent to enroll form.
To help us to place you, you must write a brief introduction in the space provided on the homestay questionnaire. You should describe yourself, your family, home community, college studies, hobbies and interests. Start your introduction with "Dear Friends" or just "Hello." Because the provided space is limited, write thoughtfully and concisely. Don't forget to express an interest in staying with the family.
If you follow strict religious observances, have special health needs, require a special diet or suffer from allergies, use the space provided on the homestay questionnaire to note these special requirements. We try to alert EIL to any special requests as early in the process as possible, and we can do this only if we know about them. Please note that EIL cannot accommodate requests for a specific host family, region of the country or roommate.
Each year a number of students ask to be placed with Jewish families, especially when the Jewish high holidays fall during homestay in September or October. If you make this request, you may be placed with an orthodox family and expected to follow religious practices strictly.
Your homestay may also be in a different location from those of the other students on your program.
Although we will try, we cannot guarantee to meet special requests brought to our attention within four weeks of departure.
The cost of your homestay, including travel from Dublin to your homestay city and from your homestay city to your study site, is included in your program fee. You will eat most of your meals with your homestay family. You are required to remain lodged with your family for the entire length of your homestay.
All students hope to be placed with a "good" family. Remember, in Ireland, just as in the US, families come in all shapes and sizes. Your experience will depend as much on your cooperation, good will and courtesy, as it does on the family's. While the families are paid a small stipend for your room and board, no amount of money can adequately compensate them if they receive a "bad" student. You are a guest, not a boarder, and they will appreciate it if you:
- bring a small and relatively inexpensive gift (something which represents your hometown or home school is always well-received)
- help out with daily household tasks (such as washing the dishes)
- ask permission to use the telephone and pay adequately for your calls (local calls cost money)
- do not raid the refrigerator without permission
- do not use an excessive amount of hot water
- are receptive to activities planned by your host family
Your homestay family and group leader may well make arrangements to show you interesting sites in the area, but this is not always possible during the working week. You should relax and be yourself. Try to be flexible and fit in with the family's routine. If you are unsure of something, take your cues from the family and ask questions.
By all means, you will be welcome to call or write to your homestay family after the homestay is over. They will be interested in hearing about your studies and further adventures in their country.