Frequently Asked Questions
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- Host Family
Do I need to be fluent in English?
You need to be able to speak and understand some English, as there may not be someone who understands your language in your host family or school. But you do not need to be fluent – one of the reasons you are coming is to improve your English and that’s what you will do while you are here!
Can I choose a location within South Africa?
No. Our program is located in the area of Cape Town. However, you will have the opportunity to tour around the Western Cape with our local tour operator and you may have other opportunities to travel to other parts of the country with your host family.
How long will I stay on the program?
You can choose to stay for one, two, three or four school terms. A term is approximately three months.
Can my parents and friends from my country visit me while I am on the program?
No. We believe that visits from parents and friends disrupt your settling in process and immersion into life in Cape Town. We allow parents and friends to visit you in the last month of your stay but we recommend these visits only take place after the end of your last school term.
Can I go home early if I am really unhappy?
Yes you can go home early if you are really struggling and unhappy. However, after all your preparation, you may come to regret that decision if you take it too early. GROW Abroad will do everything we can to smooth your way and make your time here a great success. Most problems can be solved by communication with us. Remember that it can take a few weeks to settle in.
Can I attend the program with a friend?
Yes you may certainly apply with a friend to join the same program. However, you will not be placed at the same host family.
Can I travel on my own while I am on the program?
GROW Abroad does not allow students to travel independently while on the program. You will be able to travel with the organized tours that we offer, or with your school or host family.
Can I choose my own school?
You can indicate a preference from the schools that your agency shows you. However, we cannot guarantee that you will be able to attend that school. GROW Abroad takes into account the appropriate host family for a student, as well as location and school availability when matching students to schools.
How is my safety ensured?
Host families and GROW Abroad co-ordinators work within strict safety procedures that ensure your safety at home, and while being transported to and from school, during your tours and other activities. There are also rules in place that you need to stick to in order to ensure your own safety when you are out and about with friends. You will be informed of the rules as well as guidelines for your own conduct during orientation.
What activities can I do on the program?
We offer organized tours with a reputable operator, you can take a surfing course through our approved surf school, and you can take part in school sports and cultural activities. Your host family can also assist you to join a gym, Scouts, dance group or other activity outside of school. There is a list of activities that are considered dangerous enough to be excluded from our program due to risk of injury or because they are not covered by your insurance. You will be given a list of these activities.
What happens if there is an emergency?
Your host family will be able to deal with most situations. There is also a GROW Abroad co-ordinator available 24/7 to deal with emergencies. You will be given a number to call upon arrival in South Africa.
What kind of host family can I expect?
Host families come from all kinds of backgrounds. They may be a nuclear family with a mom, dad and children, they could be single parents, same sex parents or people without their own children who enjoy having children in their home. They are all carefully screened, interviewed and approved by GROW Abroad area co-ordinators. All host families must have certain safety features in their homes, such as first aid kits and smoke alarms. They must all undergo a criminal check and receive police clearance. You can expect a warm, loving environment and a middle class home with comfortable accommodation. Some houses have swimming pools. You may be required to share a room with a host sibling or other exchange student as long as he or she is of a different nationality to you.
What will my host family provide?
Your family will give you a warm, welcoming environment, a comfortable bed and a place to store your clothes and other belongings. They will provide three meals a day and a packed lunch for school. Your hosts will also provide transport to and from school. There are safety features in place in the home, such as first aid kits and smoke alarms. Many families have an internet connection or can help you get Wifi on your phone or laptop. Unless you have made your own arrangements, your family will include you in their own weekend outings.
Can I stay with a host family that I already know?
If you know a family close to one of the schools that we work with, you may be able to stay with that family, as long as we have interviewed and approved that family, and as long as the family is prepared to abide by the regulations of our program. We do not usually allow students to stay with their own relatives.
How do I apply to the GROW Abroad Program?
We work with partner agencies overseas so you cannot apply to us directly. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put you in touch with the agency in your country. They will take you through a screening and application process and inform you of costs and insurance. They will also inform you of the personal and academic requirements you need to meet in order to be eligible for the program.
Is there support with my application and preparation before I go?
Yes. Your agency will help you throughout your application process. They will also provide you with pre-departure support and orientation before you leave your country.
Can I choose my arrival and departure dates?
No. Your arrival and departure dates are fixed by the program according to the start of the school term, our orientation day and the date that the school term ends.
How can we become a GROW Abroad host family?
You can click here to indicate your interest in hosting. Once we have received your information, we will contact you to arrange a suitable time for a casual, relaxed interview.
Who can host?
Any adult can host if they feel that they can be responsible parents to a student from a foreign country and if they are accepted by GROW Abroad after a meeting and discussion.
Can I choose my student?
We take into account your interests and hosting preferences when doing our matching. We then contact you with the profiles of students that we think would fit into your family and you can tell us whether you would like to host that student.
What support will our family have?
Your family will have experienced, dependable support from GROW Abroad during the time of your student’s stay. You will also have a GROW Abroad area co-ordinator who will get to know you and your student during visits. You can call your co-ordinator to ask any questions and help you solve any difficulties that may arise. Most difficulties occur through cultural misunderstandings, and our co-ordinators are experienced in helping to solve these! If a problem persists you may call us at our office. For emergencies, an area co-ordinator is available 24/7.
What must we provide for a student?
You need to provide reasonable accommodation for the student to sleep comfortably and store his or her belongings. Most students are prepared to share a room with a host sibling or other exchange student. You also provide three meals a day, plus a school lunch. You organize transport to and from school and help with transport to other activities such as surfing. Students are allowed to use Uber for their own account so you will not be required to take them to all social events that they may arrange for themselves. You would also take your student on at least one outing a month, perhaps to a market, beach or picnic.
How long do students stay?
Students sign up for three, six, nine and twelve month programs. You will be able to indicate to us which time frame you prefer.
When do students arrive?
We have two intakes – one in January and one in July.
Are the students insured?
Yes, the students are covered by a comprehensive health insurance. Many of them also have additional insurance. Host families are not required to include exchange students on their own policies.
What are the financial implications?
Your basic costs are covered to enable you to feed and house an extra person and to cover petrol costs for transport. Students have access to their own pocket money to cover their extra needs and their social arrangements.
Where are the students from?
Most of the students come from Europe. There may also be students from countries such as America, England and South American countries.
What are the benefits to hosting for my family?
Imagine the excitement of your children at being able to meet someone from a completely different culture! You will make contacts that can last for years. If your children want to take the opportunity to travel they will have a friend overseas to welcome them. You’ll also start to see your own city through different eyes – a student gets you out and about in Cape Town and gives you a fresh perspective on your home town. You will also benefit from the new energy that arrives in your family, who can bring something new and different into the home. You will also have the chance to meet and make friends with other host families, extending your social circle and bringing new people into your life.