Studying abroad can be scary especially when you’re away from the comfort of your home. However, there are programs out there that offer homestays as a living option and in no time, it’ll feel like home!
Where Do You Stay?
You would be living with a host family near the city of your study abroad program; a room is provided, which can either be a single or shared.
For me, I live with a family located in Northern London. I share a room with two girls, and in another room upstairs, there are two more girls. We’re all in the same program so it feels like a family. It also helps that I don’t feel lonely when taking the Tube.
My program cost allowed me to have breakfast provided by the host family during the weekdays. Although it is very simple, I will typically have a bowl of cereal, and make some toast with either butter, Nutella or jam (strawberry is my favorite!). And to top it off, I have a cup of English breakfast tea with splash of milk and two spoonful’s of sugar.
With lunch, everyone is typically out and about either in class, walking around, exploring or taking part in an internship. So for lunch, you can prepare it beforehand, either early in the morning or the night before. My roommates and I like to make sandwiches because it’s easy to make, pack, and eat. Sometimes I like to treat myself out especially when I have a long day by eating out and trying a new restaurant. I enjoy getting pasta for lunch, or grabbing a bite to eat at Pret a Manger (French for “Ready to Eat”) where they sell sandwiches, salads, wraps, and toasties for under £5. In central London near the university, there is actually a small cart that dishes out free vegetarian food during lunchtime.
For dinner, we’re allowed to use the kitchen when it’s free after the host family typically has their dinner. We take several trips to the grocery store since food laws are strict here, therefore everything has less preservatives so the food doesn’t last as long as it does in the States. We are required to buy our own food, and other necessities to make food. Between the five of us, the cost is significantly cut down when we cook dinner as a group, and it is simply a grand ol’ time when we sit together and enjoy a home-cooked dinner. This is a great way to save money, but if you are not one to cook all of the time, there are tons are places to eat for dinner. London is extremely diverse, so you will find many different types of cuisines everywhere and around the many boroughs of London.
The Host Family
I chose the homestay option, because I would have a close source for London tips and the chance to experience what it was like to live in a British household. They are lovely people and most of the families have been doing AIFS programs, so they know how it goes. They are prepared with Wi-Fi, towels, and bed sheets. There are a handful of rules like being quiet past 11 PM and being quiet when coming in late, which all makes sense when you are in another family’s home.
It is also nice because we always ask the host family questions about absolutely everything- London, the Tube, recommendations for pubs, food, malls, the government, cultural differences, tea, landmarks, etc. They are there to help you and make you feel at home.
This could be different depending on the home you are staying in. Each person is entitled to one laundry load per week; my homestay mom is willing to do our laundry once a week. For others, they may just do their own laundry using the family’s washer and dryer.
AIFS will provide you with directions and Underground routes to get you to the most important locations such as where AIFS Student Services is located which is in Dilke House, where classes will be and of course, back home. With the homestay option, houses are farther from Central London on the edge of Zone 2, so travel cards will allow you to go from Zone 1-3. Zone 1 is Central London and as you go farther away from the central area, the zones increase. This is a small perk as you are allowed to go around and explore London just a zone more.
My homestay mom actually walked with us to that station and guided us until the last stop. It is overwhelming getting around the Underground because everyone is trying to get from Point A to B. Even though it is simply one point to another, it is also again, everyone.
Pro-tip: I downloaded a London based app called CityMapper that allows you to plug in a location and get you there with directions by walking, biking, Tube, bus, or Overground. The app is equipped with all forms of transportation, routes, as well as accurate platforms, departure times, and even the best section of the train to sit in. It will even let you know about delays or cancelled trains.
In the end, the living situation is what you make of it. It has only been two weeks, but my homestay family has been very welcoming; along with my roommates, I feel at home already.
Teresa Nguyen is a Communications student from California Sate University, Long Beach studying abroad in London for Spring 2019. Teresa will be documenting her time abroad via video blog. While in London she is excited to learn more about the world and the global community. Keep checking back for more of Teresa’s blogs here.