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Host family?

July 09, 2009

Hello again,

As this site tries to appeal to ELT establishments wherever they may be, I don’t usually focus on matters that relate only to schools based in English-speaking countries. This means that the student welfare aspect has been largely omitted. However, somebody pointed out to me that many schools worldwide make arrangements for their students to attend...

... intensive courses in English-speaking countries, sometimes during the holidays and sometimes as a complement to their training at home. So here I am first considering what it takes to be a host family.

If you are thinking of welcoming a student to your home, you do need to think about whether this will really be appropriate for you. For example, if you would like to host a younger student, then you need to think about the responsibilities that entails. Even if you have children of similar age yourself, you cannot assume that your student will have similar habits and behaviour patterns. What if your children are allowed more freedom of movement than your student’s parents permit? Will that cause problems? If the student is homesick will you be able to cope? Will you be willing to have a Criminal records Bureau check? Does your home insurance cover you for any damage or loss that might result from having a student in your home or for any accident the student might have while in your home?

I am not trying to deter people from hosting juniors, but it is a serious responsibility and should not be undertaken until you have thought about all the implications. If you are ready to go ahead, then think also about what motivates you. You should have a genuine interest in people from other cultures and be able to accept that their habits may be quite different. Remember too that the fees paid to you by the school are to cover the costs of hosting, not to provide you with a big profit margin. If you want a purely commercial arrangement, it would be better to let a room on that basis rather than offering to ‘host’ a student.

While the responsibilities of hosting an adult are less onerous, issues such as insurance still apply. With both juniors and adults, the student’s expectations will be to participate in your family life: eating with you, spending time chatting, going on family trips and sharing family entertaining. So if your idea of hosting is that the student will keep to his or her room for most of the time, then please think again!

The rewards of hosting are invaluable: you learn a lot about different cultures, you make lifelong friends, you add an exciting new dimension to your life as you welcome each new guest. Of course you will occasionally find that you and your guest are not compatible but schools generally try to find a good match between host family and student. And if serious problems arise, the school will usually move the student.

All types of household welcome students, it is the responsibility of the school to ensure that the family and the student are appropriate for each other. A woman living alone might feel uncomfortable with an adult male student, for example. But students are as varied as hosts, so usually a good match can be made. Perhaps the best way to work out if this is for you is to dip your toe in the water. Register with a local school and try it out. If it doesn’t appeal, you will soon know and needn’t take another one. If you enjoy the experience, then will have found a new aspect to your life.

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