Australia’s international education industry has shrunk. Standing at $37.6 billion before the pandemic in 2018-19 (where 2.7 per cent of this belonged to school enrolments in 2019), it then slid to $26.7 billion two years later.
It was welcome news, therefore, when the Australian Bureau Statistics revealed that about 59,000 international students arrived down under in January this year, up from 36,000 in December 2022.
Nearly 5,000 of the January arrivals belonged to the school sector – a jump from 1,300 in the same period last year.
To welcome our international students, making sure that every child is cared for is crucial, especially when the limited housing for international students in Australia have become a concern.
Australian Homestay Network (AHN) has been working with agents, education providers and industry bodies to rapidly grow the host pool to ensure there is enough quality accommodation to meet the student demand anticipated for 2023, according to company chief executive Julie Manche.
She says: ‘The experience of sending a child overseas to study can be daunting. Safety, support and knowing their child is cared for are key concerns for parents.
‘[Given the situation,] homestay is seen as a more immediate solution in many areas where other accommodation types are sold out.’
Benefits of homestay
While the education provider maintains responsibility for the student’s welfare — and must ensure all arrangements meet the requirements of the National Code — there are many benefits for students who stay in a homestay.
- living in a ‘home away from home’
- having ready access to pastoral care
- connecting with local people
- building new relationships and gain independence
- creating family ties within the community
- improving language skills in a supportive environment
- learning about the local culture
- sharing meals and enjoy other day-to-day activities.
International students’ support
To welcome students into the community, schools can leverage off their established connections and build networks (more on that below), while encouraging them to register as homestay hosts.
The approved homestay host will:
- welcome the students to the community and ensure the student becomes familiar with their neighbourhood
- provide a local orientation, introduce the student to Australian culture and help them understand local customs
- offer guidance for appropriate behaviour
- assist in monitoring the student’s curfew, wellbeing and school attendance
- assist the student in the event of a critical incident and communicate details back to the student’s parents and school through AHN.
Manche believes that this way, high-quality homestay organisations and boarding schools can play a key role in offering international student accommodation and services that respond to parents’ needs for safety, support and assurance.
Creating positive international student experience
A positive study abroad experience is key to retaining your students. To do this, leverage the power of networking:
- Make the most of direct links within your school by sending online communications to your staff, alumni, email database and others.
- Conduct community outreach such as through addressing your social media followers, speaking with local international community groups and multicultural centres, and putting flyers up in the local library –– simple ways to help people become familiar with your school and your international cohort.
- Capitalise on the local government, inter-school and partner relationships to spread the word about the positive contribution that international students make.
- Develop a targeted public relations campaign via traditional media (such as through local newspapers, letterbox drops, radio, TV and others).
- Organise dedicated events to connect directly with your local community.
In conclusion, providing homestay and housing options for international students is a crucial aspect of their overall study abroad experience. Schools can play a significant role in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their students by partnering with reputable homestay providers, establishing clear guidelines for homestay arrangements and offering additional support services as needed. By prioritising the needs of international students, schools can create a more welcoming and inclusive learning environment for all.