Building Community with Local Homestay Programs – Julie Knopp (POY 26)

Julie Knopp directs City Stay, which offers local homestay programs in Minnesota. Listen as she compares this one-of-a-kind idea to study abroad education.

Julie Knopp directs City Stay, which offers local homestay programs in Minnesota. Listen as she compares this one-of-a-kind idea to study abroad education.

Listen to This Episode


Episode Summary

  • Julie founded City Stay to educate residents of Minnesota’s Twin Cities about the diverse communities in their area.
  • City Stay offers week-long homestay programs for high school students, as well as programming for educators, employers, and others.
  • Julie shares stories about how City Stay has broken down some mistrust among participants so far, and how this mission motivates her organization.

Guest Links

Other Links

Josh learned about City Stay on an episode of The Looncast, a well-produced podcast with a spirit reminiscent of the Beat Generation. If you’re a fan of podcasts, be sure to check it out.


This transcript may differ in minor instances from the audio content. Please notify Josh Morgan of any errors you may find.

Monologue by Josh Morgan

Julie Knopp is an educator and community advocate from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She’s also the Executive Director of City Stay, a nonprofit organization that offers special homestay programs to students in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. City Stay’s programs are a lot like study abroad programs, where students stay with host families in other countries, except City Stay matches local students with local families. Their goal is to educate Minnesotans about the diverse cultures not far from where they already live, and to encourage trust between residents of the Twin Cities. I talked with Julie about this one-of-a-kind idea and about what City Stay has accomplished so far.

I’m Josh Morgan. My conversation with Julie is coming up next on The Plural of You, the podcast about people helping people.

This is Episode 26. You can read along if you’d like at

There’s been a lot of academic research into the pros and cons of study abroad programs, but it seems the effects of traveling to other countries for education are mixed. I’ve never participated in study abroad education myself, so I don’t know about it first hand. From what I’ve gathered over the years, some people get a lot out of it. Others take certain expectations with them and don’t retain much of what the new cultures might have to offer.

The reason I never studied abroad is because I could never afford to go. Programs like these usually cost thousands of dollars, so they’re limited to those from wealthier or more resourceful households. That’s what appealed to me when I first learned about City Stay: in addition to educating Minnesotans about their neighbors, they’re able to offer their services for much lower costs, which makes them more accessible to less-connected individuals.

Something I realized while reading up for this episode is that, in a sense, Julie and the team at City Stay are trying to restore our admiration for the places where we live and for the people who live there, or at least they are among residents of the Twin Cities. This sort of contradicts the desire that many of us have been taught about traveling, which generally speaking is this thing we aspire to do as a symbol of status. In his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, historian Yuval Harari claims that this romanticism our culture has for traveling is strongly correlated with consumerism. In many cases, we’ve been trained to identify with the physical aspects of travel experiences over the human stories behind the places we go, while at the same time asserting our cultural preferences on the people who live in these places.

A lot of the tourism industry today appeals to this notion that we should want relief from the places where we live or from the people we have to deal with on a daily basis. I like seeing new sights, too, so I’m not saying that traveling is a bad thing, but I think sometimes we plan faraway trips as a way to leave the problems at home behind. That’s fine as a temporary escape, but those problems will still be there, and not everyone shares the same desire to leave them. I think what I’m trying to say is that, the occasional trip somewhere new is okay, but we often look past the value of the places where we live when planning to take a break. Part of the reason why that is because maybe we don’t know as much as we’d like about the places we live and the people we share them with, but City Stay would like to change that mindset.

Julie founded City Stay a few years ago after a ton of careful planning. I’m just so enamored with the concept, and I’m happy that Julie made time to talk with me. To me, City Stay is a perfect example of what’s possible when our desire to help others is as strong as hers. Here’s Julie Knopp, the Executive Director at City Stay.

Interview with Julie Knopp

This transcript is not yet available.

Conclusion by Josh Morgan

What did you think of this episode? What do you like about the place where you live or the people who live there? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter at pluralofyou, or contact me via the website at

The Plural of You is produced by me, Josh Morgan, in chilly Edinboro, Pennsylvania. Mike Martinez created the music.

You can find show notes, past episodes, and other resources on the website, and if you’d like to have the next episode sent to you automatically, visit to subscribe to the podcast.

If you liked my talk with Julie, check out Episode 8 with Sarah Grey. Sarah and her husband started Friday Night Meatballs in Philadelphia to break out of social isolation, and they inspired people all around the world—and I’m not exaggerating—to host dinners for others. You can find my talk with Sarah at

In closing, here’s a homework assignment.

The next time you’re shopping someplace that sells bottled drinks, ask the cashier if they’d like one and buy it for them. It’s small acts like this that build community, and if you’re a regular at the store, you might make a new friend in the process.

That’s all for now. Thanks for helping. By the way, I really mean that. Thanks for doing your part.