Justin Quinn, Managing Director, CES

Justin Quinn, Managing Director, CES

Pros and cons of host family vs. residential accommodation

Looking for accommodation can be both time consuming and very stressful. But looking for accommodation in another country is one of the most difficult things a student and/or parent must do.

The type of accommodation is a very personal choice and students pick family over self-catering for various reasons and vice versa. I will outline the advantages and disadvantages of host family accommodation versus residential accommodation, which can help in decision making.

There are many benefits of living with a host family

  • Perfecting your language skills. Students are immersed in the language and not only practice what they have learned in their classes but they also learn the colloquial language that they may not necessarily learn in school.
  • Local culture. Living with a family you will get insight into the locality, places to visit, people of interest and local cuisine. Some families may even include the students in their family excursions.
  • Financial. Living with a family can be more economical, there are no worries around paying bills, paying for a laundrette or where the next meal will come from. This can be especially comforting for the parents.
  • Cleaning and cooking. This is all done for you. You can concentrate on your studies and do not have to spend any time worrying about cooking dinners, cleaning, shopping or doing your laundry. This works very well for all students around exam times. Again as a parent this is very attractive.
  • Safety. Some students feel safer within a family environment because they are in their comfort zone.

For one student the above are advantages but for another they are disadvantages.

  • Cooking. Many students like to cook their own food. They may not like the local cuisine or at least would like to have more variety. This is something they cannot control in a family situation. There will also be set mealtimes.
  • Facility restrictions. Students cannot use the cooking facilities or decide when to do their laundry. The laundry days are generally prearranged with the host family.
  • Guests. Students cannot bring friends into the house without permission and there would not be the option of overnight guests. This may result in less interaction with friends.
  • House rules. Most host families will have rules that their students need to adhere to. Some students would find this restrictive especially those who have already lived away from home.


Self-catering accommodation is a completely different experience and deserves as much thought put into it.

  • More cultures than one. Students can experience a lot more than the local culture, you have the chance to be in contact with many different nationalities.
  • Guests. You can have as many guests as you like. Your friends can stay the night without having to ask permission (although it is advisable to check that your flatmates don’t mind).
  • Cooking. You can cook whatever you want and whenever you want. This gives you a lot of flexibility. If you have special dietary requirements you can easily accommodate them yourself. There are no set meal times.
  • Facilities. You can do your own laundry when it needs to be done as opposed to having certain days and times for it.
  • You have a lot of personal space and not just restricted to some areas.

As with everything there are some disadvantages to sharing with other students.

  • Cleaning. Unless you all agree on a cleaning rota or hire a cleaner there are potential problems around the cleaning of communal areas.
  • You may be living with students who are less studious than you and prefer to party.
  • If something gets broken you have a responsibility to report it to ensure it is fixed. You can’t presume that somebody else has done that.

As you can see both host family and residential accommodation have their advantages and disadvantages and it is a very personal choice. We are lucky here in CES that we can offer both to our students. Many of our long term students chose to book a family for a month when they arrive. This gives them the security of having a homely place to live to get themselves settled in their first few weeks. It gives them some time to find their feet and discover the local areas and make some friends. After this time they may choose to move in with friends or they may decide that they like the family life so extend. We have a huge database of excellent families who cater for all nationalities and needs. Although we do recommend staying with a family to totally immerse yourself in the Irish way of life it does not suit the needs of every individual.


When choosing your accommodation I would suggest that you ask a few simple questions.

  • Would I rather live in a family environment or with other students?
  • How do I feel about having all my meals cooked for me. Would I prefer to buy and cook my own food?
  • How much freedom do I need? Can I abide by house rules easily or do I need more independence? How much structure do I want in my day?

It is a big decision and deserves time and thought. I hope this is helpful in your decision making. Good luck!


Justin Quinn is Managing Director of CES Centre of English Studies (www.ces-schools.com). The school has centres in Dublin, Leeds, London, Oxford, Worthing and Harrogate.

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Members of IALC share their insights on the language travel industry. Contributors are owners, directors, managers, teachers or administrative staff of IALC-accredited language schools worldwide.

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