Hosting foreign students can be a rewarding experience for all involved.
Whether it’s a brief stay during a school student exchange programme; a longer-term homestay or a school hosting experience, hosting international students brings so many opportunities, both personal and educational.
If you’re wanting to host students in your school or home, we’ve put together this handy guide on hosting international students so you know what to expect, how to prepare and how to get the most out of your experience.
Benefits of Hosting Foreign Students
So why would you want to host international students in the first place?
Student hosting programmes have been shown to have a tremendous impact on learning outcomes for students – both those doing the hosting and those being hosted. As well as developing important life skills such as confidence, decision making, cultural awareness and communication skills, young people will also have the chance to learn about another culture first-hand, make new friends and become exposed to alternative world views.
For students in the UK, hosting foreign students has been shown to encourage more interest in learning about global issues and the acquisition of a second language, helping them grow into well-rounded citizens who are well prepared for a an increasingly global society.
Benefits of hosting international students include:
- Hosts and hostees can learn more about another culture, people and language
- Raise multicultural and international awareness within the school, home and local community
- Create awareness around the adoption of an alternative, multifaceted approach to teaching and learning
- Potentially earn funding for your school
- Help to boost the local economy
- Help your school meet the expectations of the Ofsted framework
- Generate excitement and interest in students and young people about visiting other countries
- Become an ambassador for the UK.
Becoming a Host Family for Foreign Students
As well as hosting foreign students at school, families can also decide to become a host family to a foreign student looking for an authentic cultural experience.
Opening up your home and becoming a host family is a unique and rewarding experience for the whole family. It gives families a chance to host a student, make new friends and appreciate learning and sharing differences in cultures and languages.
What’s more, you’ll be a key player in helping your host student experience all of the educational and personal benefits mentioned earlier. Welcoming an international student into your home will allow them to experience maximum immersion by living as ‘locals’, and give them the opportunity to experience and learn about British culture first-hand.
Meanwhile, you and your family will have the chance to learn about a different culture and meet new people, all without leaving your home.
How to Become a Host Family
If you’re interested in becoming a host family for a foreign exchange student, there are lots of different organisations you can register your interest with.
To start with, however, you’ll need to make sure your home and family circumstances are well-equipped to accommodate a foreign student properly. See below our section on hosting foreign students in your home.
Below is a list of recommended organisations who are always looking for host families willing to host international students.
- UK Guardians – become part of a growing portfolio of host families who host students staying in boarding schools in the UK.
- Language Studies International – based in Brighton, Cambridge, London and London Ealing and offer immersive hosting experiences in several countries worldwide.
- UK Study Centre – involves working with a UK guardianship organisation to become a host family to students aged 12-18 years and over. Students typically stay in boarding school accommodation during term time but may additionally need to stay with a host family during school breaks.
- EF.co.uk – EF is always looking for host families for its older students that participate in EF’s study abroad and student exchange programmes.
- MyEducation – Host students aged 16-18 years from a variety of countries, all of whom can speak moderate English and are interviewed and screened before departure.
- UK Guests – looking for friendly homestay hosts in North, South, East and West London to accommodate international students who come to the city each year.
- Study Abroad UK – offer homestay experiences for a variety of students coming to the UK, including not just high school student exchanges but also those participating in school integration programmes, activity programmes, volunteer work, and a mix of long and short-term stays.
Can you host a foreign student and get paid?
It is indeed possible to get paid for hosting foreign students in your home. How much you get paid will depend on a number of factors, such as:
- Which organisation you choose to host with
- How long you host students for, and how often
- The agreement you have with the organisation about how much you are expected to provide as a host (laundry services, cooking, transport, etc.)
- How much you include the foreign student in family life – days out, family trips, special occasions etc.
- Whether you are hosting a student as part of your school’s foreign exchange programme (many schools will be expected to pay either all or some of the hosted students’ expenses).
Does hosting foreign students affect benefits?
If you earn extra income from hosting foreign students in your home, this has the potential to affect any benefits you are claiming.
However – this all depends on how much you are earning each month from hosting. If it’s under a certain amount, it won’t affect your eligibility to claim benefits.
The Government’s Rent a Room scheme allows homeowners to earn up to £7,500 per year tax-free from letting out furnished accommodation in their home. This works out as £625 a month. You can certainly earn more than this, but any additional income would be taxed.
If your hosting stipends are paid merely as expenses, this should not affect your eligibility for benefits. However, if you’re unsure, speak to your benefits adviser to find out how much you would be entitled to earn by hosting foreign students in your home.
Finding Host Families for Students
If you’re a student looking to stay with a host family in the UK, you can use any of the above websites to find a UK host family to stay with.
However, here are some additional websites used for finding host families for students:
Hosting Foreign Students in Your Home
Once you’ve decided you wish to host foreign students in your home, you then need to decide what you can realistically offer your host student and whether you can provide the right environment for them.
Most student homestay schemes will require you to provide most or all of the following for any student that stays in your home:
- A warm, clean, furnished bedroom with a comfortable, standard bed; wardrobes; drawers and a study desk
- A designated study/desk area somewhere in the home that’s quiet and private (if not provided in the bedroom)
- Access to common areas in the house such as kitchen, living room, dining room, garden, etc.
- Access to laundry service or facilities so students can launder their own clothes
- Fresh bed linen and clean towels weekly
- Up to three balanced, nutritious, varied meals per day (in some cases, where a breakfast-only or half-board situation is arranged, hosts may not have to provide the full three)
- Transport to and from school OR advise students on the route via public transport and the surrounding neighbourhood.
Hosts are also often expected to:
- Provide a warm, welcoming, safe environment and treat the student like family
- Clean the students’ room and communal areas of the home weekly
- Keep the school/organisation informed of problems the student may be experiencing
- Respect the student’s cultural background and be sensitive to their particular needs
- Encourage the student to practice their English speaking at home
- Supply a key so the student can have easy access to the home
- Provide adequate bathing facilities so students can shower or bathe daily.
- Provide support with after-school activities such as clubs and sports
- Provide exposure to the cultural and social environment of the home and neighbourhood
- Provide assistance and encouragement with furthering their knowledge of the English language
- Include the student in any family events or activities, etc. days out, parties or occasions etc.
In some cases, hosts may not be required to provide everything outlined here, depending on their unique hosting situation.
For example, if their host student is older, they may live more like a lodger in the home, having the freedom to come and go as they please and needing less support with their education or cooking their own meals independently.
However, just because the host student is a guest in your home, doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to have rules in place for keeping the place clean and tidy! See our section below on being a good foreign student exchange host.
What to be prepared for
- Most international students will be courteous and polite, but you may also come across the occasional bad-mannered visitor. Luckily however, these are in the minority and part of their stay in the UK will involve them learning about British politeness!
- While students are often out all day either studying, seeing the sights or hanging out with friends, they will be typically be around in the evening. This can lead to your personal space not always feeling like your own, and sometimes there can be noise (especially if hosting more than one student at a time).
- Most students rise early to get ready for school, so you’ll need to be prepared to get up with them and ensure they have breakfast and everything they need for school etc.
- Many foreign students like to bring presents for their hosts, so if you become a regular host family you can expect to overflow with chocolates, wine, sweets, preserves and other items!
- Whilst you may get paid for hosting, remember that you may also be expected to pay for additional expenses during their stay like groceries and transport.
- Explanations are important. Things that you may take for granted can be interpreted differently by international students. One host laid out a choice of three cereals for her host students to have for breakfast, only to come back to find all three had been mixed into one bowl!
- In rare cases, you may find that your host student isn’t fitting in well with your family or the UK in general. Sometimes this can be down to home sickness, or sometimes it can be that the student’s personality just isn’t the best fit for your circumstances. If you find that things aren’t going so well for whatever reason, be sure to inform your school or student exchange provider immediately, so they can help you find a resolution or have the student placed somewhere else.
Tips for Being a Good Foreign Exchange Student Host
Below are some tips to help you get the most out of your hosting experience. As well as ensuring you become a good host for your foreign exchange student, these tips go a long way towards maintaining good relations all round, so that the hosting can be a positive experience for everyone.
1. Draw up a list of house rules
It’s helpful to have a list of ‘ground rules’ so to speak, to hand to your student when they arrive. This may not seem like the first thing you wish to do, but many hosts say it’s easier to have boundaries in place from the beginning to ensure a positive stay for all.
This could include things like maximum time to be spent in the shower; whether laundry is included in their stay (and if so, which days it is done and whether there is a charge) and whether students are allowed to have friends over for dinner and/or stay over. Sometimes it can help to have designated days for these things if you don’t want to seem too strict.
You might also wish to provide additional information, like what time the family has dinner each evening and an itinerary of a typical family week.
2. Offer leaflets/information on the local area
Most foreign students are quite adventurous and will be happy to go off and explore by themselves or with friends. Make sure you provide some information on the local area, such as the bus and train timetables, and directions to local places like attractions, sights, the library, gym, supermarket, and so on.
3. Make your student feel part of the family
You don’t need to make any grand gestures to help your host student feel part of the family. Simple things such as including them in family outings; having the same rules and allowances for your host student as you do for other children, and integrating your host student into daily/weekly routines.
4. Report any issues to your school/exchange provider as soon as they occur
It’s quite rare for issues to occur, but it still happens. Whether your host student isn’t adapting well to life in your town or maybe isn’t getting along with other members in your family, it’s important to mention any problems to your school or exchange provider as soon as possible.
They can help you find a possible solution or find the student alternative accommodation.
5. Have contact with the student’s parents before arrival
Though this isn’t always possible, it can be helpful to have as much contact as possible with the student’s parents before their arrival. This will help you determine how well the student is likely to fit in with your family.
Most schools and student exchange organisations will have a strict screening process in place to match students to the best host family for them, and will also have contact with the parents on your behalf. Still, if you can establish that connection for yourself, it will really help your own peace of mind.
Hosting Foreign Students with TEP
True Education Partnerships offers UK schools the chance to host foreign students through our Hosting Unleashed programme. This programme provides an incredible education experience that can benefit the entire school community.
During the exchange, international students are immersed in their host school by taking part in regular curriculum classes with UK students to help them to get the most out of the experience. This integration enables students to mix, form bonds and collaborate on joint projects, ensuring that the exchange has a positive impact on both host and exchange students.
True Education Partnerships supports the student hosting programme before, during and after to ensure its success. If you’re curious about hosting students in your school, please get in touch with us.