Smithsonian Student Adventures sends groups of students to live with host families in partner communities around the world. This important facet of our programming is directly connected to our philosophy of facilitating meaningful cross-cultural interactions and supporting local communities. Living with a host family allows our travelers to truly immerse themselves in the culture of their destinations and to build lasting friendships with local people.
Reasons to stay with a host family:
Learn another language
You will be immersed in the local language like never before. Whether you already know the local language or not, you will undoubtedly learn (and laugh) along the way.
Try new authentic foods
There’s nothing like a home cooked meal, especially from your host mother. You will have the chance to try new and exotic foods that the locals eat every day.
A home away from home
You will immediately have a family who is there to support you whenever needed. There will always be someone to talk, laugh, and eat with during your stay.
New customs and traditions
Whether it’s learning how to properly eat with your hands in Senegal, or how to greet others with a kiss on the cheek in Costa Rica, you will learn how to adapt and communicate in a culture different from your own.
Build long-lasting friendships
By the end of your trip, you will wish you had more time with your new family. Before you know it, you’ll be planning your next trip in order to spend more time with your host family and new local friends.
Teach others about your culture
Not only will you learn about another culture, you’ll also have the opportunity to share your own home culture with others. You may end up laughing together at the perceptions of what each of your cultures is like.
Become part of the community
You won’t simply be passing through, you will be actively participating in the community. Whether it’s working on a service project, attending a local soccer match or hosting a farewell party, the entire community comes together.
Live the local way
You will experience what daily life is really like in your host country, instead of just hearing about it from a tour guide.
How do we pick a host community?
SSA puts a lot of thought, research and work into choosing a host community. A typical community where travelers stay is rural, small and off the beaten path, and is rarely frequented by tourists. We chose these locations and build relationships for several reasons:
When a community is off the beaten path, it enables our travelers to experience the local culture in its true form – not fabricated or glamorized for tourists. Small rural towns are much less influenced by modern western culture, making them the ideal place to experience the authentic local culture.
In a small town where everyone knows each other, there is a much greater sense of community and friendliness. Locals are very welcoming towards our groups, especially since tourists rarely visit them.
These communities offer opportunities for our travelers to partake in important service projects. Smaller villages receive very little funding for public works projects, so our groups have the ability to make a meaningful difference in the community by completing a service project.