It’s spring break, and a young student’s fancies turn toward vacation. Specifically: how you are going to spend your spring break. There are problems and promises if you live on campus, especially if most of your fellow students are traveling. But if you are staying with a host family, vacations could be a potential minefield. This doesn’t have to be the case, though. Communicating honestly with your host family is a great way to forge tighter bonds and grow as both a student and a person.  In this article we’ll discuss why you may not be joining them, and what to do if you stay home.

Host family

Your host family is part of you, but you may not be able to go on vacation with them. There is nothing wrong with that- and it gives you an opportunity for growth.
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To go or not to go

A family trip is an important thing. Whether it is a weekend jaunt to the country or a weeklong trip to a Disney resort, vacations are an important time for a family. They are freed from the day-to-day stresses of school and work, and have a chance to spend time together without everyone being pulled apart by the call of homework or extracurriculars. This can bring its own stresses (more on that in the second part), but in theory, a vacation is an important and positive thing for a family.

But it is also an expensive item in a family’s yearly budget, and possibly an expense for you, as well. For this reason, it might not be feasible for you to go. The family can of course invite you, but it isn’t obligatory. There are a few considerations that might prevent you from joining them.

  • Can they afford it?- A family might not be able to cover the cost of your travel/lodging.

  • Can you contribute?- You have to consider if you have the resources to contribute to the trip

There is a chance that it won’t work out, or that you won’t be able to cover your costs- or you might think there are better ways for you to spend the limited amount of money you have. The important thing here is to communicate and to be honest. It is easy to hem and haw around the situation, and end up with neither party being happy. Speak your mind, and let your host family speak theirs. This is a huge part of becoming an adult, which is sort of a factor of your studying abroad.

Staying Behind

If you are going to stay at home, there are important things to make sure you get from your family. There should be enough food at home for you, and you should communicate what you are comfortable cooking and what you aren’t. It doesn’t do any good to leave food that you don’t know how to prepare. They should also make sure that you have emergency numbers and that you are familiar with their itinerary. But there are also some things you should remember.

This isn’t your house: You should not use this opportunity to throw any parties, unless for some reason you were granted permission to do so. But avoid assuming that you can do whatever you want. Follow the rules, and make sure to leave their house in the same condition they left it in.

Avoid doing things you have never done before : Always wanted to learn the art of deep-frying a turkey?  Don’t try it this week. Being alone brings with it a certain sense of freedom, even daring, but don’t get ahead of yourself. You’d feel pretty bad about burning down your own house, much less someone else’s.

Follow instructions: Do they need you to water plants or let the dog out? Make sure that you take care of these tasks. Trust me: even if it seems like a pain, you will feel terrible if you don’t, and it will make things uncomfortable for you and the family afterwards.

Communicate with the school: Let someone know you are going to be alone. Your host family may take care of this, but following up might be a good idea. It doesn’t hurt to have someone check in on you during the week.

Talk to other international students, or classmates not going on vacation: They may have plans for the week. It’s best not to stay indoors all week, poking around online and generally wasting time. Other people are filling time that week. Find out who else is going to be at home and make plans with them to do something.

Staying at your host family’s house by yourself is a sign of respect and trust. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t violate that trust. But even more that- it is a chance for you to learn about yourself and grow as a person. Taking care of the house on your own is a sign of adulthood and maturity. Your host family might be having fun on their vacation, but you will be having just as much an experience as anyone else.


The international student experience is both challenging and exciting. Whether you are a student considering studying in America, their parent, the host family, the Head of School, an international coordinator, or even a potential classmate, there are as many opportunities for confusion as there are to learn. The ISPA is here to help bridge that gap, to ensure that this opportunity and adventure is met with the highest level of success.