The emergence of technology in the past decades has led the world to many innovations. Things that were once impossible to conceive, such as minute-to-minute trans-Atlantic communication, are now commonplace. With the opening of communication, furthermore, has come the opening of borders and thus of constant interaction of communities that had previously interacted only in limited amounts. The history of studying abroad and of host families has been long in existence. But with this aforementioned 'opening' it has become even easier to travel, whether for education purposes of otherwise, and especially to find easy accommodation, whether with friends, families, at such sites as www.justhomestay.com or www.homestayfinder.com, or trustworthy strangers, at www.airbnb.com, for instance. The pages below will study one of these websites, namely www.justhomestay.com, and with it the 'host family' industry, and will aim to examine both external and internal factors that have contributed to this area's growth.
Just Homestay LLC
Just Homestay LLC is a great resource from which to start. The website for this company states that "Just Homestay is an independently owned and operated company specialized in short-term and long-term housing. We provide assistance for international students / visitors in New York City." (Just Homestay, 2012) Further description does mention that the company operates in Miami, Los Angeles and Washington as well. Due to the specific market in which Just Homestay is present, namely in the city of New York which will be analyzed for the scope of the essay here, the website ought to be a specialist in all issues dealing with connecting an individual to a host family. Such individualized assistance is important, especially in a city like New York, where different boroughs have different 'feels,' and thus one needs to be familiar with both the student and the host family's situations in order to best match them, should the student not choose a family outright.
Tailoring an Experience
In order to demonstrate its ability to perform this 'connection,' the website includes a form that an individual must fill out in order to 'tailor' the application process to a certain individual's needs. After a closer examination of various factors, which has been previously completed and has included the fact that the organization screens each family to ensure safety and has quite a unique program, complete with a mission statement and values, one can say that a very important factor in this particular company's growth has been knowing the market for such a large city. As stated above, New York City is not only large, but also has different neighborhoods and each neighborhood is unique. With the size of the city comes a huge concern for safety as well. Thus, what Just Homestay LLC does better than other websites, such as www.homestayfinder.com, is, as mentioned above, tailoring the experience to a certain customer's needs.
When one visits the website, thus, he or she will have the option to not only read New York City testimonials and see pictures (though very few of both), but will also be able to complete the application on the website that allows the student to specify various pieces of information that can be crucial to the application process and matching the student with the right family. The testimonials also help ensure the integrity of the company, as do the host family requirements and a quick peak at the 'About us' section where videos are updated to include various individuals that further offer praise for the organization.
At first glance, thus, Just Homestay LLC looks like a good website from which to start. However, a closer peak at other websites, such as Homestay Finder, will leave the reader with a different, more 'complete' feel. This means to say that Homestay Finder has a larger database, it seems, and an individual has more control over choosing his or her host family. Furthermore, Homestay Finder appeals to a greater market, for it has a host family database for more than 30 countries (31 to be exactly, including the United States, by state and city). At Homestay Finder, one can not only click on a certain city, but also see individuals and sometimes pictures of families with which one can choose to stay (Homestay Finder, 2012). Most of these families also have a description of who they are and why they want to be host families, which is very nice to see and lacks on the Just Homestay website. One downside of the website, however, is that it does not provide a 'customer' with tailored information, so for this reason, Just Homestay is still at the top.
Another resource for finding accommodations in another city that are relatively affordable and homey is Air B. And B (www.airbnb.com). Unlike the home stay website above, Air BnB functions more like a hotel. It has a database of 29,786 cities (AirBnB, 2012), and an individual can choose a place to stay based on where he or she wants to go, as well as check in and check out dates, and sometimes price. Thus, the website places much more control in an individual's hands, though just as Homestay Finder, it provides descriptions for various hosts. Because of the fact that many more tourists utilize Air BnB this website's appeal is much less connected, though much more professional looking than that found on the website of Just Homestay and Homestay Finder.
Whereas the most important external factors for Just Homestay LLC's success include a deep knowledge of the market, of the families and of the individuals that ought to be connected, the website's focused appearance, complete with pictures, videos and testimonials makes it look very professional and very tailored, which adds to a trusting relationship, especially for an individual across seas, and thus one can suppose that this only contributes to the organization's success, especially in the New York market.
The strength of any organization, however, is in numbers. Without further information as to what its internal working are like, or its profits, it is quite difficult to evaluate the organization's strengths and weaknesses, especially whe comparing it to Homestay Finder and Air BnB, the latter of which has a more professional website that includes more company-related information. Without access to public records, such as tax returns, it is impossible to evaluate what the company could do better. Though at first glance, given the many resources available just by searching a website, the marketing could be bolstered.
One of the foremost internal strengths of the organization, as mentioned above, which is worth repeating is the amount of specific information that the organization gathers from both its host families and its visiting individuals. Based on a quick application look through, it seems that the screening is not only relatively quick but also thorough, which further ensures that a student will be 'in good hands.' Despite some internal strengths and weaknesses, this organization does need to bolster its credibility and increase its marketing capabilities if it desires to remain successful.
Studying abroad is difficult, especially when one is not familiar with a city or even a country. There are things that one must know in order to be successful, which are cultural in nature, and can only be learned from natives. When one arrives in a foreign country, thus, it is important that he or she has someone on which to rely, and this is where the host family comes in. The essay above has discussed various sites that provide this service, and why some are better than others.
Just Homestay has been analyzed in detail as the most tailored of the three websites, whereas Homestay Finder had a large database, and Air BnB was very professional in nature, though not very personal. After this examination…
"Homestay Finder - Helping Host Families and International Students to Find Each Other." Homestay Finder - Helping Host Families and International Students to Find Each Other. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2012. .