Australian international school students’ homestay families negotiating intercultural relations

Year: 2019

Author: Blackmore, Jill, Tran, Ly, Mahoney, Caroline

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Representations of Asian families pursuing educational goals range from parents typified as ‘astronaut ’ families, ‘parachute ’ or ‘satellite ’ kids who tend to live on their own, ‘third culture kids’ travelling with transnationally mobile parents, and ‘Wild geese’ accompanied by their mother. Little is written about homestay despite its significance with regard to the affective dimensions of internationalisation such a feelings of place and people attachment (Campbell 2004, Benson 2008). International school students due to their age are subject to government regulation and schools are required to provide homestay for those students not accompanied by relatives. The majority of students in our cohort live in homestay arrangements but some came as families who see international education as a strategy for gaining citizenship.

Homestay has become a major industry in Australia for both international short-term exchange and long-term students, predominantly in universities. Broker organisations link students to homestay providers but pairing school age international students to homestay families is reliant on individual schools, who draw on a network of host families. We address the limited research on homestay experiences, how it is organized and how it impacts on the student educational experience. We consider the rationale, roles, expectations and experiences of homestay hosts and what shapes their relationships with the students given often divergent expectations of the host and international student (eg. Rodriguez et al 2014, Benson 2017). What supports do host families have and how does homestay contribute (or not) to students’ sense belonging and connectedness?

Multiple theoretical perspectives have been mobilised when researching international students:- Bourdieu (1986) notion of transnational student mobility as enhancing capital accumulation of the Asian middle class; theories of intercultural competence as a key aspect of 21st skills discourse(Ohi et al 2018) and theories viewing belonging and connectedness as enabling factors facilitating engagement in education (Halse et al 2014). Few of these adequately explain homestay host motivations which are often an amalgam of altruism in terms of improving cross cultural relationships, being a good global citizen, a sense of obligation of care for young people from similar cultural background, having a friend for their own children or the financial benefits. Homestay families focused on the dissonance between their expectations of homestay and student expectations, how they negotiate the rules, and whether any relationships formed are rewarding for all participants.