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

The task sounds simple: to find the perfect Homestay host 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 in the Copenhagen Airport… 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.

Mia, front and center, with her Host team

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 pink and blue A3 paper with interesting facts 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! Excellent team work exercise!

FA14_Matching_HomestayDIS: What do you recommend students do to ensure they get a good match?

MP: First of all – that they are really honest when it comes to their motivations for doing a homestay and wishes for their particular homestay hosts.

The more open students and hosts are when it comes to wishes towards the other party, the more likely they are to be pleasantly surprised. I think we can generally be too focused on ‘a great match’ and should be more focused on how to meet other people with curiosity and interests.

FA13, homestay, kayak I think this is also true of romantic relationships. There is a Danish documentary on the air now, where a group of professionals match single people with each other, and the couples are married to each other the first time they even meet. I could see parallels to my work in that show – believe it or not. It’s the hardest thing of all, but if more people would focus more on what they could do for the other (and not the other way around), we would have more happiness and less divorces.

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

MP: It’s a very emotional and exciting day – for both students, hosts & 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 Marie. 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?

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. Ask questions whenever something is not as you are used to
  3. Have a proper sit-down talk with your hosts one of the first nights where you share mutual expectations. You can be inspired for such a talk from, ‘My Homestay Handbook’ (pg. 34). Before departure, you will benefit especially from reading the first part, ‘You and Your Host.’

FA13, pyramid, homestayThe Host Team is so excited to greet you in a month!

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