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.
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. Hosts, too, can benefit from the unique cultural exchange homestay provides.
“Being part of the global sharing economy allows hosts and their families to experience another culture without leaving home,” said AHN CEO, Julie Manche.
“Many of our hosts form lifelong relationships with their guests and have the opportunity to learn about other cultures, languages, traditions and beliefs.”
AHN, which has placed over 40,000 students in homestay environments since 2008, needs more hosts to accommodate Sydney’s thriving international student population.
“The demand for affordable student accommodation close to Sydney’s major educational hubs is extremely high. AHN guests come from all over the world and for some of them it’s their first time away from home. We’re looking for ambassadors to welcome them to Australia,” Ms Manche said.
AHN is setting a global standard for homestay with their proprietary HMS (Homestay Management System) technology, tailored insurance coverage and localised support. The company’s preference-based matching process also ensures hosts and guests know what – and who – to expect before the homestay begins.
“Our goal is to match the right hosts with the right students. If there’s a good connection from the get-go we’ve established the foundation for a positive homestay.”
So who should apply?
“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 become part of our network,” Ms Manche said.
Hosts will need to complete an in-home interview, home inspections, training and undergo background checks before they can receive guests. AHN pays host ambassadors what is considered a non-taxable host reimbursement for the household’s contribution to the student’s living requirements. Hosts can also specify what kind of homestay they are able to provide, such as whether the rooms they have available will be private or shared and what kind of meals they are willing to prepare for guests.
As an industry leader, AHN’s services continue to evolve. The company has been commended by several Government committees and their contribution to the international education sector was acknowledged with a nomination at this year’s PIEoneer Awards. In 2012 they introduced the Community Placement Project (CPN), working with the Australian Government to place 600 refugees in Australian homes, and has also been named as an accommodation partner for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.