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Choosing your program: Living arrangements

There are typically a few options for living arrangements when you study abroad, including a host family. You should think through which one you choose so that it fits with your lifestyle and goals for your time away.

Host family
Host families can be one of the best ways to learn a language – if you’re dedicated to spending time with them (skipping dinners to hang out with your American friends won’t help much!). A host family can be a great resource when you’re in need – and can give you a sense of comfort and home when you’re so far away from your own. Make sure you understand what the host family rules will be before you arrive. What will your interactions be like? What is expected of you as a temporary member of the household? Consider what you want your abroad lifestyle to be like. If you have a significant other or friends traveling abroad that you will want to host often, you’ll want to make sure this okay or opt for another situation.

Living with local students
If living in a family situation isn’t your thing, perhaps living with some local students might be the right fit. Unlike a host family, these students might become part of your social circle, which will make it easier for you to immerse yourself in the language. Living with roommates likely also allows more flexibility, giving you space when you need it, allowing you to travel, or permitting you to host friends. Again, you should understand the landlord’s rules and expectations beforehand. And, in the end, they are still roommates (and foreign ones at that!), with their own habits and quirks!

Living with American students
Some programs might offer this as the only alternative to a host family. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the culture, we recommend this option least. You’ll most likely have a ton of fun and always have a travel buddy, but you’ll maintain your American comforts and habits while abroad.

Living alone
If you’ll need to hunt for an apartment, negotiate and interact with a landlord, and call a maintenance person without help, this could be an option to throwing you into the culture head-first! Check with your program first to see if this is an option. Often, they prefer that you stay with local students or a host family to ensure constant interaction.


  1. As the owner of ABC ESL Canada I have been a host family for over 27 years. Be aware of the situation with the host family. If they have children they might not be able to spend much time with you. Living with your ESL teacher and host family is wonderful as you get to learn the culture, speak English all the time and the teacher can guide you to the best things to see and teach you about transporation. As the owner of ABC ESL Canada, Teacher and Host Family you get the best.

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