Agents prefer safety and dollar value
of homestays for their student clients
As most international educators know, agents can play a key role in helping students to choose a destination country and educational institution. That influence can also extend to the type of accommodation.
So, it's of particular interest that the Canada Homestay Network last fall conducted a survey of 617 agents from 47 countries about their impressions of homestay in Canada. The survey responses have a confidence level of plus/minus 3.8 percent, 19 times out of 20.
Student safety topped the list of benefits with homestay. According to the survey, 83 percent of agents felt that homestay is safer than alternative housing options. The other benefits of homestay included:
- Immersion in the culture and an English-speaking milieu
- Being in a caring family environment
- Having support in adjusting to a new culture
Agents appreciated the linguistic and cultural components of homestay. "The cultural and family experience is usually more important to our clients than the academic experience," commented one German agent.
"Homestay can provide the key to unlocking your potential with a language," said a Vietnamese agent. About 88 percent of agents agreed that homestay helps students improve their English.
The agents also liked the value that homestay provides, with 67 percent agreeing that it offers greater value for the money than other types of accommodation. A further 21 percent felt it was comparable to other options, leaving just 13 percent of respondents who believe that homestay has lower value than alternatives.
Indeed, monthly homestay fees in large Canadian cities are typically in the $900 to $1,000 range. That compares to the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto at $1,359 and in Vancouver at $1,385 per month. Of course, homestay fees usually include meals, which makes them even more economical than apartment living.
Homestay is a bargain compared with university residence. For example, at Queen's University in Kingston, a dorm room with meals costs $1,875 monthly.
Finally, the survey asked agents whether agents prefer an in-house homestay program compared to one operated by an external provider. Here's what they said:
- 45 percent favour in-house programs
- 41 percent expressed no preference
- 14 prefer independent providers
Canada Homestay Network director Jennifer Wilson says the data suggest that the most important benefit of an in-house program is the relationship between the agent and the homestay managers; they perceive this to be stronger when the program is run in-house. However, she feels that external providers like CHN can make up for this gap by building strong relationships with agents directly.