Australian Homestay Network students enjoy accommodation with host families. Photo: AHN

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Meet the locals – Australian Homestay Network
BY JADE MORELLINI

Australian Homestay Network (AHN) was founded in 2007 to provide international students with a higher quality of living, offering them a safe, comfortable and welcoming environment to begin their time in Australia. Homestay is more than a place to sleep and eat. It allows students to connect with a local family and exchange their interests, share their languages and learn from each other in a way that’s often lacking in on-campus or share house settings.

AHN delivers a homestay experience built upon accountability, system integrity, transparency, personalised services, safety, insurance and 24/7 support. Several Government committees have commended the company and their contribution to the international education sector acknowledged with a nomination at this year’s PIEoneer Awards.

Australian Homestay Network Marketing Manager, Alyssa Nerney, said: “Our approach is that every international student is someone’s child and we’re very conscious of that when we’re going through the placement process. We’ve placed over 40,000 students in Australian homes since 2008 and have also expanded the concept to the USA.”

The relationships developed between host families and their guests has established a strong foundation for success, with research indicating that international students who live in homestay receive better academic results, have more opportunity to integrate into the community and are more settled than their peers.
“Homestay opens the door to cultural immersion. It helps international students improve their English skills, develop a local network of support and there’s a lot of cool things students get out of homestay that they miss out on when they live in a unit or on campus; they don’t get the same results out of it,” Ms Nerney said.

International students are not the only ones who benefit from the experience. Hosts also have a lot to gain, as they are able to form lifelong relationships with their guests and learn about other cultures, languages, traditions and beliefs. They pass on their knowledge to students and help them assimilate into Australian society while earning additional income on the side.

“Our hosts are everyday Australians. There’s no cookie-cutter ‘type’ of host. Any person or group who is willing to share daily life with an international guest can apply. They just have to sign up, do their interview, go through some standard home and background checks (hosts need to have a Blue Card) and be within 60 minutes travel time to one of the region’s educational institutions,” Nerney said.
AHN offers a range of homestay packages students can choose from, depending on their requirements. Traditional Homestay for example includes two meals Monday to Friday and three meals on weekends while the Complete Homestay package includes three meals a day, seven days a week. Students also have the option of staying in a private or shared room. Hosts specify what kind of homestay they are able to provide during the application process.

As an industry leader, AHN’s services continue to evolve.
In 2012, the company aided the Australian Government with housing for 600 refugees under their Community Placement Project.
“Nobody else was really stepping up to the plate, nobody else was able to provide a solution and we had the potential to connect with thousands of hosts around Australia. We reached out to the community and asked if they could take some refugees in and we received enormous support,” Nerney said.
AHN has also been named as an accommodation partner for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, giving athletes families, media and auxiliary staff the opportunity to live like a local, with a local family during their time on the Gold Coast.