Matching Homestays: An Interview with DIS Host Team Manager Mia Priskorn

The task sounds simple: to find the perfect housing option for a DIS student. We’ve seen over the years, though, that matching is indeed hard work – since it means using a pen, paper, and human reasoning. But the DIS Host Team does it each year, matching students and introducing them to their hosts at Arrival Day and eventually, watching these relationships grow from afar, receiving stories, photos, and thank yous for what turned out to be an amazing semester.

To break down the process for us, we talked with the Manager of the DIS Host Team, Mia Priskorn, who gave her perspective in matching students with Homestays, as well as some useful advice for any student and host in the first days of living together.

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Mia (left) with her Host Team colleagues Lea and Jesper

DIS: What is the process of matching Homestay hosts with students like?

Mia Priskorn: It’s all human minds and human hearts who work together to make the best possible matches. We, the DIS Host Team, bury ourselves from the outside world for about a week. We fill the office with A3 papers with interesting facts about each student printed on them. One person makes the initial match between host and student, and another staff member verifies that the match is okay – that we did not miss an allergy or something. When the week is up, we have placed almost all students. It’s hard work, but also a lot of fun! An excellent teamwork exercise!

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DIS: What do you recommend students do to ensure they get a good match?

MP: Students should be honest when it comes to their motivations for doing a homestay and wishes for their particular Homestay hosts. The more open students are when it comes to wishes towards their Homestay, the more likely they are to be pleasantly surprised about the Homestay match.

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DIS: What is your best advice on how to write a useful housing application?

MP: Take this task seriously and make sure you set aside time for it in your busy academic calendar. Be honest and thoughtful. We cannot meet needs that we don’t know exist.

Also, know that unless you have a documented accommodation need from your home university and DIS, your wishes are preferences. We do what we can to make them come true – but likely not all of your preferences or wishes will come true. Please share with us what is most important to you of your different wishes. It is a complex puzzles with many parties – both students and hosts. Our goal is to make everybody as happy as possible and give everybody the foundation for a good semester together.

DIS: On Arrival Day, you get to see students meet their Homestay hosts for the very first time. What is that like from your standpoint?

MP: It’s a very emotional and exciting day for students, Homestay hosts, and DIS staff. It’s also a long working day for staff. We normally work 12 hours in a row. But we all love working on Arrival Day. It’s great to feel everybody’s excitement. Younger host siblings have learned how to say in English: “Hi, my name is ______. Please to meet you!” and they shyly whisper that to their new student. So cute!

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DIS: The first few days of living in a Homestay is exciting, but also force the host and student out of their comfort zones. What do you suggest both the student and host do together to set expectations for the semester?

MP: Three pieces of advice:
1. Laugh whenever something is funny or different – and be sure to share why you are amused. Laughter can work like social glue!

2. Be curious and ask a lot of questions. Questions are a sign of interest in the other party. And everybody likes receiving attention and interest about themselves and their ways of living.

3. Have a proper sit-down talk with your hosts one of the first nights where you share mutual expectations.

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The DIS Housing Team is excited to meet you!

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