How long have you been hosting foreign students?
For over 10 years would you believe!
What made you begin?
It was two things really. One is that my son moved out and we have a large house which is now empty, and we feel quite lonely without young persons. Also, I have arthritis and I couldn’t work, so I wanted to do something to have an extra income but it’s become more than that as now it’s a way of life for me. I cannot imagine my home without students.
Why do you enjoy it?
We sit, we talk, and learn from students as much as they learn from us. They come from such different cultures and it’s always nice to see them develop and learn English. I also love cooking so it gives allows me to experiment! It helps me stay young too!
What’s the golden rule of being a successful host family?
I’m told by my accommodation provider (Hosts International) that’s I’m a popular host, they do keep my three rooms pretty full of students and manage everything for me, so I must be doing something right. The most important thing is o treat students as your own children or how you would your friends or visitors in your own home. If my son went anywhere, I would want him to be treated well and be as part of the family, be clean and in a clean place and well-fed. So I always think of that and students are like my grandchildren as I am old now! And they become part of my home.
What tips would you give international students coming to study here for the first time?
Do some research and realise that London is a large city and a very international city.
I know students worry about travelling as they may not be used to it but in a large city like London, this is quite normal, and everyone uses the underground. I get a lot of students to say it’s far, but it’s not to us in London. Also, be open-minded, London is such a melting pot, it’s a multicultural multiracial city, that’s what’s great about it.
Are you still in touch with any student who has stayed with you?
I have so many letters, cards, souvenirs from their stays and even a few invitations to come to visit them in their country! Some students are kind enough to remember birthdays. We have one student from Russia, Vladimir, he comes to London every year and stays with us, he calls us his real parents!
Do you have a favourite nationality?
I think the Japanese students are very polite, but I’ve had several nationalities stay with me, from Saudi students to Europeans to Mongolia, some places I’ve never heard of! I think I need a global map to mark them off!
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you as a host family?
Good or bad? Good: it wasn’t strange but it was a Chinese girl who stayed with me once and we were interested to know about what she eats and drinks and likes so she used to make green tea and have some rice snacks while she was here. We’ve never had those. When she left a few weeks later arrived a large basket full of green tea and rice snacks, I mean lots enough for months! It was with a letter from her mother thanking us for taking care of their daughter and preparing nice meals for her. It was a lovely surprise but maybe a bit strange to have so many! We once had a student who was in the shower and when I went in to tidy up after, there was water everywhere, my carpets were soaked which I could not figure out so we had to have a chat with the office to advise them and us too. Oh yes, I remember now, the strangest was a Thai student I had who was a boy but in the morning, he was a girl all dressed up! We didn’t know what to do, that was one we needed support for!
1. In your experience, what are students most worried about when they get to their host family?
Most students are very nervous as they don’t know what to expect and they don’t know what sort of people they are going to live with. They also come from different cultures and homes so we appreciate Hosts International matches our requirements as much as they match students and make good matches. Our home was inspected by Hosts International and I understand they visit all their families to make sure the families are good and offer clean and comfortable facilities for students. The students don’t know how they are going to be treated so when they arrive I can see that on their face. They are nervous and quiet and as a host family, it’s my job to make them feel at home and settle them in. I spend a lot of time talking to them, offer them something to drink, show them their room and then let them get some rest. Only after the first few days, start to feel at home. Things are different for them, culturally and
they may not know where how to get to school, they may not know how to use the shower, they may never have ironed their clothes! Students are nervous about all these things and we are here to make sure they feel at home.
2. Anything else students should know?
I think they need to know that they must talk to us if they need anything, be open, and communicate with us because if they don’t speak to us, we will not know if they are happy or not. And to make the most of their time, to be positive and embrace new things.
Mrs S Georgiou
Hosts International family