Being a Host Family

Being a Host Family

We are a large family, with 4 children, and we wanted to both earn some extra income from our spare room and also give our family arich experience of other cultures, by hosting students from outside the UK.

I had grown up in a home where my parents regularly hosted students both short and long term, adults and under 18's and so was very familiar with the set up of hosting and its benefits. As a child I loved meeting new people and chatting to them, even helping with their homework sometimes!


Now my own children enjoy having another person in our home who is learning English and experiencing our culture. For the students we host for several months they become like family and are very much missed when they return home. I often stay in touch with our former students on WhatsApp and one even returned this year to introduce us to his new wife, as he considers me his English Mum.


We take our lead from the students that we host as to how much they want to do with us but we always try to encourage them to join us for family trips, which often involve walks along the seafront for ice cream or coffee and family meals at home to celebrate birthdays or events such as Easter and Christmas. We know meal times are a big part of informally chatting and getting to know our student and they usually get the most of being with our family during these times. We try to be as sensitive and be as accommodating as possible to the students' food preferences and also their religious festivals such as Ramadan; during that time, us adults eat with our student at what evertime they break their fast.


We often visit London for educational trips with the children & encourage the students to also go there during their stay.

We did have one student who was a very big fan of the Royal family, especially the Queen and he said, "When I visit London, I will see the Queen". Tactfully we tried to explain in all our years of visiting London we had never seen the Queen there. On the day, however, when we took him for his first visit, he went straight to Buckingham Palace where all the roads were closed and he saw the Queen and Prince Phillip in the Royal car drive right past him and again later he saw her walking into Westminster Abbey. We couldn't believe how lucky he was!


The other thing we have noticed is when a student comes from a hot country they find even our 'hot' summer days not overly warm! They take a while to adjust and understand we have central heating here in ourhomes, not air con too!


The students can be shy at first when they arrive; we find lots of smiling, positive body language and also our children's general unabashed enthusiasm to interact with them usually helps them to soon feel at home with us. We love living by the sea too and we find beach trips with ice cream whatever the weather often relaxes them and builds up a relationship between us all.


A number of our students have come from Saudi Arabia and we, and they, seem to appreciate these are a very different cultures but what's lovely for us is that the students usually come from large families and they find our children reassuring, familiar company and know sibling relationships are the same the world round! It's often the first time the student has lived independent of its parents so we are always happy to help them learn how gain skills such as using the washing machine or making simple meals/snacks too.


I would highly recommend hosting a student as a way to broaden your knowledge of other cultures and a special way for you and your family to earn an income from a spare room. The more open minded and accepting you are, the more you encourage them to join you for family activities or events the more they feel comfortable to open up and get the most from their time in the UK.

Rebekah Thorne