Tuy nhiên, sống chung với người địa phương - homestay - dần trở thành chọn lựa đối với cả những sinh viên trưởng thành hơn. Việc này khiến cho hình thức này trở thành một trong những loại hình cư trú được sinh viên quốc tế ưa thích nhất khi mới tới Australia.
When Rena Shi, a 17-year-old high school student from Beijing first arrived in Melbourne, she was disappointed that her homestay accommodation was nothing like the grand mansions she imagined from the American movies.
“As a Chinese girl, you have a lot of imagination about the Western world, from the American movies to the TV shows. It’s quite different, really. The room had a single bed and very basic everything. But the family was really nice."
But before long, Rena found her new challenges.
“Foodwise, it was a bit difficult at the beginning. I was craving for rice after three days. At the beginning, I was like, ah, Western food, like steaks, lamb shanks, and steamed vegetables, I really hated it…But then she (the homestay mother) tried to cook Chinese food for me and I really appreciated that.”
The Bakker’s, Rena’s homestay family, has hosted many overseas students before. Rena says maybe that’s why they were very patient with her and always happy to help her out, such as with her language difficulties.
“I used to carry this little electronic dictionary in my pocket because sometimes I had problems communicating with them….They also are very nice in helping me with my English...If I don’t get (what they said), they will say, ‘come on, get your little dictionary out and I will type it up and you can have a look’.”
Rena says she loved her homestay experience even it had a bumpy start. Most of all, she says it brought great comfort to her parents, who could be sure that she was being looked after by a family with children of her age.
David Bycroft, an expert in the home stay matching industry, says the things Australians take for granted are exactly what students need the help with.
“Our company provides a 24-hour help line….We had calls from students who forgot how to get to their homes. They’ve gone out with their friends. And they are in the suburbs, trying to remember exactly how to get to their house.”
His top tip for students is to be on time, as hosts often get worried when students are home late. David also encourages students to participate in family life and to enjoy it, but to be mindful of their responsibilities as well.
“To make sure they contribute to the household. They are not just renters that live in a spare room, they are part of the house hold. If you are given an opportunity to take part in something the family is doing in the weekend, participate in it, so you can enjoy the experience and just try to make it a happy experience for everybody.”