Frequently asked questions

Do I have to be a UOW College student?

The Homestay program is available to both UOW College and UOW students.

 How do you choose the family for me?

We use the information you give us about yourself on your application form to choose a family that best suits what we know about you. So the more you can tell us about yourself the better (eg; I like to play basketball, read books and watch movies. My favourite video game is WOW. I would like a quiet family with older people. I like pets, but am afraid of birds)

What types of families are there?

We have every kind of family; big ones, small ones, busy & noisy ones, quiet ones, no kids, lots of kids, young people, old people, big houses, small houses, city apartments… Every kind of family!

What about children?

You can tell us if you’d like to live with children or not.

What about pets?

You can tell us if you’d like to live with pets or not. Many students think that homes with pets might be dirty, but this is not the case. Most families in Australia have pets and they keep very clean homes. If you are allergic to pets, please make sure you explain that on your application form.

How long can I stay?

The initial stay is 4 weeks. If you would like to stay longer with your host family, you can talk to your host family about that. It will be up to you and your host family to decide how long you can stay (some students stay with the same family for many years, until they graduate).

If you are under 18, you must stay in homestay until you no longer require UOW College welfare care.

What happens when I am ready to leave my homestay?

You need to give your host family 7 days notice when you are ready to move out (or 7 days payment instead of notice).

How far away from my school will I be?

Wollongong is a very beautiful place, which fits in a long thin strip along the coastline, between the bush escarpment and the ocean. Some homestays may look a long way away, because of the long thin shape of Wollongong, however all Homestays are within 30 minutes of your school on public transport.

What kind of transport is there?

There are many ways Homestay students travel to their school. Your Homestay family will advise you the best way to get to school based on your location. They will assist you with timetables and so on.

Some different ways students travel to school are; Bus, train, car, bicycle, walking, lift with a family member.

Will I have internet access?

All Homestays have internet access for students. Internet works differently in Australia than in most other countries. It is charged based on usage. Your Homestay will explain to you about usage and downloads. You may need to pay a small fee to cover the internet you use. Your family will discuss this with you.

What kind of food will I eat?

You will eat the same food as your host family eats. Australia is a multicultural society, so we eat a wide variety of foods. You will get to experience many new things while you are here.

Breakfast: Australian families do not generally eat breakfast together, nor prepare hot/cooked breakfasts except on very rare special occasions. Breakfast in Australia is usually cereal, or toast, or fruit and yogurt, or porridge. It is a functional activity, not a community event in Australian homes. Students will have access to breakfast items in every home, but generally be expected to prepare those items themselves. It is very unusual for Australian families to sit together at breakfast time. They almost always eat their breakfast at different times (because of their individual morning preparation routines).

Evening meals: Australian families eat a wide variety of foods and utilise many countries’ cooking styles and flavours. You will get to experience many different types of dishes in Australia. Students eat with the family and fit in with the routine of the household. Some people eat early, some eat late, some cook ahead and reheat at a dinner time that suits each person, some cook together… every home is different.

If you are not planning to be home on time or eat with your family, you should advise them early in the day so they do not waste food or wait for you to come home before they eat.

Lunches: Lunch is generally a casual & small meal in Australian homes. It may be a sandwich, a salad, or some other simple thing. Australians do not often eat hot meals in the middle of the day.

Weekend lunch is included in your Homestay fee (if you are home). Your family will provide a meal for you or provide you with the ingredients to make your own sandwich, salad. Weekday lunches are not included in your Homestay fee, as most students prefer to buy lunch on campus or shop for ingredients and make their own food to take.

If you want to pack a lunch box using food from your Homestay’s cupboards, you must pay an additional cost per week to cover the additional groceries required. For more information on cost refer to Other Service Fees.

What if I have special diet needs?

On the application form, we ask you to clearly explain if you have any special diet needs because of allergies, illness or religious reasons. We will help find a family that can work with your special needs. Please note that there may be an extra charge for some special diet requests.

Can I cook?

Please discuss this with your host family. Some families prefer students not to cook, however many families are happy for you to cook with them. It can be a good way to learn about each other’s cultures and practice speaking uncommon words. If you specifically want to be allowed to cook with the family, please mention that on your application form.

What does 'help myself' mean?

It means that you may take something without asking first (like a piece of fruit from the fruit bowl). But be careful not to take everything without asking first. Be sure you understand what you are allowed to “help yourself” to.

What about my laundry?

Laundry is included in your Homestay fee. Some families will allow you to do your own washing; some prefer to do it for you. Your host family will discuss this with you when you arrive.

Please do not hang wet clothing in your bedroom or cupboards.

I do not know how to iron my clothes. What should I do?

Ask your host to show you where the iron is kept and how to use it.

What will my room have in it?

All Homestays must provide a bed, bedding, sheets, pillow, blanket(s), clothes storage, desk, chair & lamp for their student.

Will I have my own bathroom?

It is very unusual in Australian homes for everyone to have their own bathroom. You should expect to share the bathroom with other members of the household. If you are sharing a bathroom with other members of the family, your host family will talk to you about what times will be best for you to use the shower.

Can I have a bath?

Australia is a country that has water shortages. Water use is restricted by the government. Ask your host how much water you may use and when it is convenient to take a bath. You also need to keep showers short for the same reason.

Can I share a room with my friend or partner?

Yes. There are many Homestay families that are set up for two people to share a room; either with 2 separate beds in one room (for friends) or with a double bed (for couples). If you would like to share a room with your friend, please explain this on your application form.

Can I go in to every room in my host's home? Are some rooms private?

Some areas are private. You should never enter any other bedroom without being invited. You should always knock before opening a closed door (especially a bathroom door).

What jobs should I do in my homestay home?

In Australia, we all contribute to the running of the home. You should make your bed, keep your room tidy and leave the bathroom clean and tidy every time you use it.

You can also help with small tasks like washing the dishes after dinner or taking out the rubbish. Ask your host family what they would like you to help with. They will give you some small tasks to include you in the family routine.

What happens to my room if I am on holidays or travelling?

If you are away from your Homestay for more than 7 continuous days (to go travelling or home to visit your family in your own country) but intend to return to this room, then you are entitled to a 50% DISCOUNT on your Homestay fees for the time that you are away. This is for students who keep their room in their host family’s home and intend to return to live with this family after their holiday. The family MUST give you this discount price, because they don’t have the expense of food while you are away.

And you must pay while you are away because the family cannot let anyone else live in this room (you do not get a discount if you are away for less than 7 continuous days).

If you move out of your Homestay (move all of your things out so that someone else can live in your room) then you do not have to pay anything. However, you will need to re-apply with UOW College Homestay if you want to book you into a Homestay again when you complete your holiday (and this same family may not be available again when you apply). You will need to pay another application fee to re-apply.

Who will pick me up from the airport?

There is an excellent airport collection system in place for our students. UOW use Leisure Coast Limousines to collect and transfer our students. The driver will take you direct from the airport to your host families home. You will be sent very clear instructions (including photo’s) about meeting your driver once we have a host family confirmed for you. Host families do not collect students from the airport.

What if I have a problem?

Your host family will be able to help you with most problems. They are very experienced and kind local people. Talk to them about what is worrying you. They will guide you.

What if I have a problem with my host family?

If you have a problem with your host family, you should first start by talking to them about what is worrying you. It might be a simple misunderstanding. They will be kind and understanding about your question.

If you still have some trouble, you can come and see us in the College building to talk about your concerns OR if you have an emergency, we have a 24hr mobile number that you can call for assistance any time of the day: +61 438 831 246

What do I call my host?

They will introduce themselves with the name that they want you to call them. If you are unsure or cannot remember, ask them again. Usually it will be their first name.

Can my friends come to visit me in my homestay?

Always ask your host family’s permission before inviting anyone to their home.

Where can I put my luggage?

Your host family will tell you where to store your empty luggage. There may be space in your bedroom or they may store it in another place (like the garage).

Can I put pictures or homework on the wall in my bedroom?

Ask permission from your host family and ask them how to do it (so you don’t leave holes or marks on the wall after you leave). They may have a notice board in your room for this purpose.

Do I have to ask if I want to go out?

If you are under 18 you must have permission FIRST and provide your host family with information about where you will be (address & phone number, so they can contact you).

If you are over 18 you do not need permission to go out, but it is polite to tell them that you are going out and what time you will be back (so they don’t worry when you are not home at your usual time). If you are going to eat out, then you should text or telephone your host so that they don’t make dinner for you and waste food. Your host family will probably discuss this with you, when they are explaining the house rules.

Can I bring alcohol to my homestay home?

It is best to ask permission first. Remember you cannot drink alcohol if you are under 18.

What if I am a smoker?

Smoking is acknowledged to be very unhealthy in Australia. There are strict laws about where you can and cannot smoke. Smoking is not allowed in public areas, buses, trains, cars that have children in them, restaurants, shopping centres etc.

For this reason we do not register families that smoke in their homes – it would be a serious health violation for our students. Therefore, it can be very difficult to find a Homestay Family that will accept a student who smokes. If we do find a family that will welcome you, you will absolutely never be allowed to smoke inside their home. This point is very important: if you are found to be smoking inside your Homestay house you may be required to leave the home without receiving a refund. If you are a smoker, you should talk to your Homestay Family about this as soon as you arrive so they can tell you if, and where, you are permitted to smoke on their property.

If I lose my key what should I do?

Tell your host immediately.

What if I want a refund?

Please refer to the HOMESTAY FEES & REFUND PROCEDURE document

When can I arrive at my homestay?

Students are very welcome to arrive at their Homestay a few days before the commencement of their course. We recommend a weekend arrival (Friday, Saturday or Sunday).
Students who wish to arrive early and spend time in Australia before they commence classes should book alternate accommodation for that period of time. UOW College Homestay families support students who are studying. It is not their role to provide cheap accommodations for holiday or recreation purposes.
Please Note - Under 18 students with CAAW cover are not permitted to enter Australia more than 7 days before their course commences; It is a visa restriction.

How do I set up a host family account?

Step by Step Guide for Setting up a Host Family Account and FAQs (pdf)

 Where does my home need to be?

Most of our students study in the Wollongong central region. We do occasionally get special requests for families in the outer laying suburbs; however they are generally short stay programs and are quite infrequent.

Although we have active families as far north as Thirroul and as far south as Shellharbour, those areas are primarily only inhabited by students who have daily delivery to campus arranged with their host families (study tours for example). Generally speaking, students want to be as close to the central area as possible. It enables cheap, easy access to school, friends, shopping, going out etc.

Host families should live very close to public transport and be within 30 minutes travel (on that transport) to UOW. Families that work at one of the schools our students attend will also be well received. All are welcome to apply, however reality will mean that not all families will be in a location that students will accept.

What does 'family' mean? Who qualifies?

“Family” simply means YOU. Our families consist of singles, couples, young people, old people, retired people, business owners, professionals, academics, artists, big noisy families, small quiet families, single mums & dads, empty nesters, newlyweds – everyone!

What kind of meal do I need to prepare?

Food is easy. Just prepare what you would normally make for the household. Students are coming to be a part of the family, so they will eat what the family eats. 

It’s a good idea to have some snacks in your pantry like instant noodles, bread, spreads and fruit. They are usually pretty hungry after school and need something to tide them over to dinner-time.

How will I be paid?

The first Homestay payment will be deposited directly into your bank account in the first week of the students’ arrival.
After this first payment we will continue to collect the homestay fees from students to pay you on a regular basis and in advance. You can find our rates here.

Does this affect my tax?

You should seek your own accountants’ advice regarding your individual taxation assessment. The ATO website may also provide information on payments received under a 'homestay' arrangement. In most cases, Homestay income is not assessable for taxation purposes.

How long do students stay?

Study tour students can stay as short as 3 days or as long as 360 days. It depends on the group and your family’s situation.

Independent adult students have an initial stay of 4 weeks (which is enough for them to find their feet and for you both to decide if you are happy with each other). If you like them and they like you, they might ask to stay beyond those 4 weeks. In which case, it will be up to the two of you to establish the time term that suits your family.

Under 18 students must stay in Homestay until they turn 18 (it’s a DIBP regulation). So depending on their age when they arrive, it could be a very long stay. But again, it depends on compatibility. You never have to accept any student and you never have to keep any student that isn’t working well in your home.

What types of students use homestay?

All types of students! We arrange homes for students aged 8yrs to 70yrs. Predominantly our customers are international students who know that they will need extra help settling into a new culture and language. Its pretty scary moving countries and leaving everyone and everything that you know behind, to come and do a degree in another language, in an unfamiliar culture (and many of them have never lived away from home before). They are looking for “a safe place to land”; someone to support and comfort them, someone to talk to and advise them, a safe place where they can focus on study.

Can we stipulate the types of students we'd prefer?

Of course.

I’ve got pets.

Most families have pets. They are a part of our way of life. Students who request a home with no pets will not be placed with you.

What if it's not working out with the student we get?

If for any reason the student isn’t working out well in your home, you should contact us to discuss the issues. In the vast majority of cases it’s a simple communication / misunderstanding issue (students can find it difficult to understand and that can be frustrating for the family at times). However, if it is something that we can’t solve with the help of some translation or advice, then we will relocate them as soon as possible for you. No problems.

Can I go out if I have students in my home?

Yes, of course.

There are different guidelines for young ones than adults (obviously), but your normal family life still continues as it would if you didn’t have students.

In many instances the students will simply come with you, as a part of the family. Immerse in the local lifestyle. Sometimes this is not suitable (a work Christmas party for example) and the student will simply stay home or make their own arrangements to go out with friends.

The rules for under 18 students vary a little. For example, if a student is particularly young then you cannot leave them at home unattended. If the student is 17 and you are confident they are safe and responsible, then you can leave them at home while you go out to your special event.

The best suggestion is; if in doubt call us.

Can I go away if I have a student in my home?

If you have a long term, adult student in your home, then yes of course. There is no reason why you can’t leave an adult that you know and trust, living there while you go on holidays. In fact, it can be a good thing. Just give us a call to discuss how to deal with meals and payments while you are away. We will give advice based on the individual situation you present.

It wouldn’t be ok to have a new student arrive at your place and then head off to New Zealand a few days later. Nor would it be ok to have a short stay study tour student left without a host family, or an under 18 student left without a host family.

If in doubt, call us and ask.

What about alcohol?

Alcohol is not included in Homestay. If a student wishes to drink alcohol they should purchase it themselves. Although, most students are very study focused and will consume little or no alcohol.

What about internet?

All students need internet access to study and to communicate with their friends and family at home. Most countries don’t meter internet usage, so they have little concept of the amount of data that they use. You will need to clearly explain to them that loading things onto, and down from, the internet is all measured and billed.

New host families generally find that their internet usage increases significantly when they get a student.

Some families increase their plans to allow the students enough access that they can be happy and are able to stay in the home (rather than looking to leave to get more internet access). If you do increase your internet plan to accommodate the student’s internet needs, then you can charge them a weekly fee to contribute to the additional expense. You can charge up to $10 per week. However most families that elect to charge, only ask for $5 per week ($20 per month goes a long way towards a bigger allowance).

Many families charge nothing; they see the internet plan as an investment in keeping students.

Can I expect students to help around the house?

Certainly. Basic chores are a good way for the student to feel a part of the normal family unit. If everyone in the household has a small job they are responsible for, then the student should be allocated one too. Simple things like helping with the dishes, or clearing the table, or taking out the rubbish are all appropriate.

Students are also advised that they should keep their rooms tidy, make their beds and leave the bathroom tidy when they leave.

Of course, this is all variable from family to family. We all have our own systems. My home, probably runs differently than many of yours. It is a matter of finding a way that works for you and your household and also makes the student feel they are valuable and contributing.

As always, if you have any questions about this, just give us a call.

What are some good 'house rules' for students?

Everyone’s house rules are different. But you should know what yours are and make them clear to the students EARLY so that they know what you want and expect, BEFORE they upset you.

Never assume the student will have the manners to know to do “X”. Because culturally, it might be very bad manners to do “X”, where they come from.

Be kind. Be clear. Be consistent.

Some good ones that everyone uses are;

  • If you are not coming home for dinner, let us know so that we don’t worry when you are not home and we don’t waste the food.

  • If you are not coming home at all (staying out, going to Sydney for the weekend etc), then let us know, so we are not calling the police and hospitals because we are worried that you are missing.

  • If you use the bathroom and splash water, wipe it up after yourself

  • Laundry is done on Saturdays, so washing needs to be in the basket on Friday night

  • Showers need to be kept short because of water restrictions (Australia is a country that runs out of water, so the Government sets laws to limit our water consumption and makes water very expensive)

  • Please don’t use the bath without checking first, for the same reason

  • When you come home at night, make sure you lock the door behind you

What if the student is sick?

If your student is sick, then they might need your help to find the most appropriate medical advice. All students have private health insurance (they can’t get a visa without it). You can take them to any doctor, the student will pay the bill and then claim a rebate from the Health fund (usually AHM or Bupa).

If they are very sick, then contact us so that we can advise the student support officers and their teachers.

What if the student is not home on time?

If your adult student is not home, has not contacted you and is not answering your calls, then there is little that can be done until the morning. The police will not accept any report of missing persons for 24hrs. And if there is a simple explanation (eg; I went out with my friends, had too much to drink and fell asleep on their couch. Or I was fine, but my phone battery died and I couldn’t contact you, because I don’t have your number anywhere but in my phone), then that will resolve itself by the morning. If you have had no contact by morning, then you can let us know and we can check to see if they have attended class.

If your YOUNG student is not home, then you must advise us immediately.

What if I am worried about my student's welfare (emotional, physical, academic)?

If you have any welfare concerns, contact us immediately. We have access to the teachers, student advisers, counsellors etc. History has shown that the Host family’s insight can be very important in identifying problems early enough for prevention.

What if the student seems to be missing a lot of school?

As above; If in doubt, call us to discuss.

What if they go on holidays but want to come back to our home after that?

When a student goes on holidays (7 days or more), they are entitled to a 50% discount on their Homestay fee. This compensates them, because you are not paying for food, electricity, gas, water etc for them while they are away. And it also compensates you, because you cannot have another student in their room and are losing potential income “holding” the room open for them.

If the student takes all of their things away (so you can give the room to another student) then they do not need to pay you anything. However, they take the risk of the room not being available when they return.

What about students having friends over in our house?

This is a discretionary thing. Only you can decide how you feel about students having a friend or friends over. However it is worth remembering that while they are staying with you, this is their home and they will want to be able to socialise.

You may find that sharing in social situations with their friends actually enlarges your own experience and understanding (I know that I have found this myself). However, you must be comfortable in your own home. So set boundaries (as you would with your own children) and insist that they always ask permission first.

How do I handle sleepovers?

Sleepovers between couples are entirely at your own discretion. Most host families have a no couples sleepovers rule (but that is up to you to decide).

Sleepovers with a friend who came to study and crashes for the night are another possibility. The student should ask permission for any visitor to come over and then ask if it is ok for them to stay. You may have a standing rule about that, which you make them aware of. Or you might ask for it to be on a case by case basis.

It is worth remembering that while they are staying with you, this is their home and they will want to be able to socialise. But it is your home and you must feel comfortable with who is coming and going too.

Discuss this with your student and if you have any concerns of questions, call us.

Special diets?

Some students do have special diet requests. This could be because of allergies, food preferences, moral choice or religious reasons. If we have a student who has listed a special dietary need, we will always discuss this with you, before you agree to take the student.

What happens when they are moving out?

You should notify us as soon as you know the date you student will depart, so that we can start looking for a new student for you.

Students should give a minimum of 1 weeks notice (or 1 weeks money in lieu of notice) when they are moving out.

Host families must do the same (provide a weeks’ notice if they want the student to leave).

What about refunds?

Please refer to the HOMESTAY FEES & REFUND PROCEDURE document