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Why You Should Live Abroad with a Host Family in Your 20s

I know what you may be thinking — out of all the things people tell you to do in your early 20s, living with a host family has never been one. As your resident international studies major here at Her Campus, I’ll give you all the reasons and more why you should consider doing this. I promise at the end of this article, you’ll see what I mean.

The first and most obvious reason why you should consider living with a host family abroad is the opportunity to travel. There are so many programs that take place all over the world where you can sign up and be matched with a family to live with from two weeks to a year! 

My first experience with a host family came when I was just 16 and I decided to attend a French camp in Québec, CA. Ironically, my host mom was named “France,” and she was a kind woman in her 30s. 

I roomed with another student from the camp named Erin, and long story short, we became best friends in the two weeks we lived with France — and have stayed close ever since. 

The following year, I lived with my second host family, once again in Québec, and had an even better experience. I became so close with them during the weeks I lived there — I have even been able to return to Québec to visit them in the years since. It was truly an amazing experience. 

living abroad
Original photo by Erinrose Ryder

If the student life is not for you, another great way to live with a host family abroad is to be an au pair! Although I haven’t had my au pair experience just yet, I have many friends who have had great experiences and I myself have almost committed to several families (despite my plans then changing for other jobs). 

Through being an au pair you can live abroad, and in return for taking care of children or helping them learn English, you can live with the family for free, or in certain situations even get paid! I know this sounds daunting but in reality, it’s a very common situation, especially in Europe, and families are always searching for students or people that want to travel and show their beautiful countries to you. 

These two options are the most common ways to live with a host family, and you are also able to gain a true immersion of wherever you are — It truly is living like a local. They can show you all the spots around the city that the tourists miss out on and make you feel like a true habitant of the area. Your language skills will also improve immensely as you’re constantly surrounded by a family in their home speaking the language. 

Living abroad
Original photo by Erinrose Ryder

Finally, the relationships you build can be amazing. As I have previously discussed, my host sister Erin and the second host family I stayed with in Québec really bonded, and they became like my second family. These experiences made me realize that family meant so much more than blood. A family who previously had no idea who I was was able to welcome me with open arms and will now be a part of the rest of my life! 

Even my older sister lived with a host family in Copenhagen, and they visited my family in Texas. We plan to visit them in Copenhagen as soon as travel is more accessible!

Living abroad
Original photo by Erinrose Ryder

(Host family from Copenhagen)

I will say, despite myself and those around me having wonderful experiences, it is always important to stay prudent and aware that living with a family abroad, just as all travel, is not always an amazing experience for everyone, and your safety is always the most important factor. It is best to go through sources and websites that are reputable and have plans in place if your safety is affected. Look out for red flags, have itineraries, and make sure family and friends from home have your location and information so that you can feel safe and have a good time.

Keeping these things in mind, I hope living with a host family is something you might add to your list of things to do in your early 20s. It is an opportunity like no other and has given me such great cultural experiences. I hope to keep doing it and adding members to my “abroad family” for years to come! 

Hello! My name is Erinrose Ryder and I am a current junior at DePaul double majoring in International Studies and French. A former Texas native, I moved to Chicago in 2018 to join the Blue Demon family and I love to support the women apart of that family through Her Campus at DePaul! With interests in travel and linguistics I emphasize the importance of experience and exposure to all cultures and ways of life in the world! Thanks!
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