Frequently Asked Questions

Applying for Homestay

Living with my Host Family

  • What will the food be like?

    Homestay students are usually surprised at how much they enjoy sharing meals with host families. Hosts are always glad to share their favorite recipes and many love learning to cook the foods their students miss from home. Often students feel rushed and are concerned about their studies when they join the family. They are surprised to be happily sitting with the family for a long time, chatting over dessert. All hosts will honor your cultural food taboos, but they may not be able to purchase halal meat. It is not available in all neighborhoods.

  • Who does the student’s laundry and cleaning?

    Homestay students are responsible for their own laundry and cleaning. Most American families do not have domestic help. Therefore, it is normal for everyone in the home to help with some of the light housework as asked (e.g. washing dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning the shared bathroom, or sweeping after dinner). Homestay students are responsible for keeping themselves, their rooms, and their laundry clean.

  • May I use my host’s computers or printers?

    No. Hosts’ computer and printer equipment is personal property and cannot be used by homestay students.

    Your room will have internet access and most students bring a computer of their own. If you do not have your own computer or printer, you should ask your university or academic program about gaining access to a computer lab on campus.

  • What about transportation?

    SEPTA (SouthEast Pennsylvania Transit Authority) is Philadelphia’s public transportation system, offering many options for smooth commuting both inside and out of Philadelphia. Our hosts live close to convenient bus, train, and trolley lines for University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Temple, Jefferson and St. Joseph's Universities. Most hosts live within a convenient commute—in the West Philadelphia University area or in the neighborhoods of Northwest Philadelphia. The NW neighborhoods offer access to Manayunk, a favorite part of the city for young people, and access to Philadelphia's vast Fairmount Park and its beautiful trails and streams.

    After dark, you should travel with a friend, use a taxi, or use one of the many campus transportation services available through your university or program. Students should take advantage of free bus loops, door-to-door shuttles, and walking escort services provided by their universities.

    We will carefully teach you the best transportation route from your homestay to your classes by taking you there on the first day. We are not responsible for providing transportation for you.

    A monthly SEPTA Key Card will take you anywhere you want to go in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs.

  • Will there be other international students in my homestay?

    Frequently, there is more than one international student living in a homestay. This can be a wonderful way to make a good friend. Remember: all homestays are English-only zones. Out of respect for everyone learning English, if two students speak the same native language, they will not be permitted to use that language in the homestay. Yes, it can be a challenge! But by adhering to English-only, you will quickly improve your language skills. Your hosts will be able to help you figure out the best ways to say things in order to be understood—and everyone living in the home will feel comfortable and included.

  • May I send my luggage ahead of me?

    No. We can not accept luggage ahead of the student’s arrival.

  • Are there rules in my homestay?

    Every family has rules about “how things work” at their house, like cleaning up after yourself, being considerate of others, and letting them know if you aren’t coming to a planned meal or activity. But you’ll find there is a lot of freedom in living in homestay!

  • Do you mix genders of students in homestay?

    Having all men or all women students in homestay makes everyone feel the most comfortable!

  • What about pets?

    Most hosts do not have pets. But some do. Please be sure to let us know if you cannot live with pets. We'll look for a host without pets.

  • Will I have chores in my homestay?

    Students keep all personal belongings in their rooms. Some homes allow students to keep their shoes by the door if they are accustomed to wearing slippers indoors. Common spaces need to be left tidy and personal items should be removed after using them. 

    All students agree to thoroughly clean the bathroom they use once a month. Further, each student is expected to leave the bathroom clean for the next person. Cleaning supplies and laundry soap is provided.

    Homestay guests agree to keep their own rooms clean, to remove their laundry promptly from the laundry room, to keep food out of the bedrooms, and to leave the kitchen completely cleaned up after using it (all surfaces clean, all dishes and cleaning utensils washed, dried, and put away). Everyone appreciates a clean environment!


Moving In / Moving Out

  • What is Orientation to Homestay?

    On your move-in date, you will meet your host family.

    You will pay the first fee for 28 days. You may use cash, a cashier's check or Venmo or Zelle. Your host may have personal preferences, so ask ahead of time. You will present your valid passport with visa. Your host will have access to an e-document Homestay Agreement which includes an agreement to use your host's internet legally. If you'd like to preview, here are links to the Homestay Agreement and Internet Agreement Form. The information is basically the same.

    On move-in day, you will receive a house key. Hosts will explain the household rules, and share all personal contact information (i.e. home, cell, and work phone numbers; email addresses, etc.).

    Your host will make sure you are prepared to find your classes on your first day.

  • May I have personal airport pick-up?

    Yes. Personal airport pick-up is available through Astra Limo, Inc. by sending an email to You will be going directly to the homestay address provided to you. Shortly after your arrival, you will meet viz Zoom with the Homestay director for a brief orientation and sign the Homestay Agreement.

    Astra is diligent about providing our students airport to homestay service.

    When using the Astra limo service, you'll need to provide to Astra.

    • Travel Date
    • Airline and Flight Number
    • Estimated Arrival Time
    • Terminal
    • Number of Bags
    • Address of your homestay

    You must also confirm that you will be using their service.


  • What are my responsibilities on move-out day?

    On move-out day, you will need to 1) thoroughly clean your bedroom. Your host may provide a checklist, 2) remove all personal items, 3) bring all of your linens to the laundry room for washing, 4) turn in your house key, and 5) write your memories in your hosts’ guest book! Please make time for a last photo. Your hosts will surely want to remember your time together.

Cost & Fees

  • What does the Homestay Fee include?

    The monthly rate is: 

    $33 per night based on single occupancy. Paid in increments of 28 days this comes to $924. Students may make arrangements to pay on a set date each month. Because of the varying numbers of days each month, this averages to $1004 per month.

    Double occupancy is $1500 (married couple).

    SHORT-TERM: Any stays less than 28 days are $35 per night.

    Students share a common bathroom.  Rooms are not shared unless by a married couple—or siblings studying together.  

    Each student has a place to store personal food in both a cupboard and shared refrigerator.  A self-serve continental breakfast (cereal, toast, butter and jam, lunchmeat, coffee, tea) is provided. There are many restaurants and cafes nearby to explore. Coffee and tea are always available to students.

    Twice a week, the entire homestay family will sit down together for a meal and extended conversation and community-bonding. These are rich times together. 

    The Homestay Fee is all-inclusive. There are no additional taxes, utilities, or fees. Homestay fees must be paid promptly. Keep in mind, if you pay by Zelle or other online app, your fee will not reach the host for several days. In the unlikely event of a student breaking items or causing damage, the student is expected to replace the item or pay for repairs.

    Hosts will provide air-conditioning mid-May to mid-September or as needed if summer arrives early or stays late.

  • How can I pay for my homestay?

    Payment is prorated until the first of the month and then due promptly on the first of each month.  Prior to move-out (with a two-week advance notice), the fee will be prorated for partial months.

    Payments can be made in cash, a certified bank check, Zelle, or Venmo.

    Credit cards are not accepted.

    The deposit to secure your homestay is an application fee and covers administrative costs. It is not a partial payment of the first month’s homestay fee. Once you arrive, your homestay payment goes to your hosts.

  • I'm planning to be away during my stay. What happens then?

    Just as with any university housing or rental, room reservations are from move-in day to move-out day consecutively. If you choose not to eat meals or not to sleep in your room, you will need to continue paying according to schedule. This policy applies during vacation periods.  Students who do not wish to pay for their rooms while they are gone on break must move out completely and store their belongings elsewhere.  The room will be made available to a new student.

  • Cancellations/Refunds

    Homestays are available on a first-come first-served basis. It is important to apply as early as possible. Once a student has occupied a homestay, there are no refunds for the first four-week session.


  • What will the food be like?

    Homestay students are usually surprised at how much they enjoy sharing meals with host families. Hosts are always glad to share their favorite recipes and many love learning to cook the foods their students miss from home. Often students feel rushed and are concerned about their studies when they join the family. They are surprised to be happily sitting with the family for a long time, chatting over dessert. All hosts will honor your cultural food taboos, but they may not be able to purchase halal meat. It is not available in all neighborhoods.

  • If I have restrictions on what I can eat, can I have a homestay?

    Almost always, yes. Simply state your needs on your Application and we will discuss it with you. For special requests, see the Guidelines for Accommodating Dietary Restrictions. Please note that we do not purchase halal meats. 

  • How can I eat my non-homestay meals?

    Hosts provide space for storing student food. Please store food in provided bins or in some sealed container. Open boxes or bags of rice and pasta are a feast for mice and moths! Refrigerator/freezers can be used but they are shared space.

    Hosts will provide students with a toaster oven and microwave for cooking their personal meals. Many hosts will permit students to cook on kitchen appliances but this varies from host to host. If your hosts allow students full access to their kitchen we recommend that you cook a few times with your hosts, so you learn where to find things, how the appliances work and how to take care of the pots and pans. Most important, your hosts will want you to know how to keep the kitchen clean.

    In addition, the Philadelphia area is full of delightful, inexpensive restaurants and food trucks of every variety designed for busy students. You may eat in one of the fabulous area restaurants or use a take-out service and enjoy your meal in our kitchen.

    Many hosts discourage eating in bedrooms for two reasons. Food and crumbs in bedrooms attract mice and ants. Most important, your hosts and fellow homestay students enjoy your presence in the home and want to spend time with you even when they are not doing the cooking.


  • Can I tour my homestay in advance?

    Right at Home Homestay does not offer pre-placement home tours. Homestay is about stepping out of one culture and into another—about forming cross-cultural relationships.

    There is no better way for foreign students to study English and learn about America than to make lifelong friendships with an American family—even with an element of chance.

    Homestay is an adventure—for both the students and the hosts. Just as students are making a decision about where and with whom they will be living for a few weeks/months with information provided upon placement, the hosts are welcoming students from all over the world into their homes knowing only a student’s gender, age, school, and country of origin. Each takes a leap of faith! Neither party should have to pass a stringent test or inspection.

    Right at Home Homestay prides itself in the quality of hosts. Hosts present a criminal background check and provide references as part of the application process. Hosts are thoroughly interviewed. Homes are inspected before hosts are approved. End-of-stay student evaluations ensure that any problems in a homestay home are addressed promptly. Unlike some homestay arrangements, both the hosts and the students can take a grievance to the homestay director for resolution. The need for this is rare.

    Most placements occur at the same times since terms typically start and end on similar dates. Most students arrive within two days of their first class. We cannot afford to hold placements while tours are arranged for a few with the luxury of arriving earlier.

    Right at Home Homestay wants all students to have a wonderful experience. Here's what you can expect:

    • Once your application is complete and the application fee is paid, we will match you with a host and start providing information about the home and neighborhood you’ll be living in.
    • We'll provide photos of the street and pictures of your room.
    • We’ll put you in email contact with your hosts so the relationship starts well before you arrive. You can ask questions of the RAHH director or your host at any time during the process.