Often families are apprehensive when they first consider hosting a foreign student and question whether they’ll be suitable.
In this article, we address some of the main concerns when starting out and invite families to reflect on the positive impact they can make on the lives of the students who come.
Giving Students an Opportunity to See and Experience Scotland
As everything we do at LTT is student-focused, we’ll start with how hosting benefits the students. For many students, it’s their first time away from home, first time in the UK and first time in Scotland. In offering to host you are simply giving a student the chance to have a slice of Scottish life, to experience its beauty and cultural heritage first hand. Students invariably leave with unforgettable memories of Scotland and a keen desire to return.
The students also have the chance to put into practice their language learning. It’s one thing to learn English at school but opportunities to speak are limited in a classroom environment. Being part of a host family enables students to improve on their speaking, listening and fluency skills in a safe space. By being cut off from their native tongue, students make progress in English quickly and easily. Fun and laughter, however, is at the fore with many mistakes and misunderstandings an inevitable part of the language learning process.
Why should families host?
Hosting a student is equally rewarding for families particularly if you are interested in other cultures and enjoy spending time with young people. It’s also an opportunity to fly the flag for Scotland and share its rich and varied history and culture. Hosts report that they enjoy the exchange of ideas and it is one small step in helping to break down global barriers. If you have children of your own, it’s a useful tool to opening up them up to global awareness and giving them another perspective on life. If they are learning languages in school, it’s a chance to hone listening and speaking skills.
Families receive payment for hosting so it’s an additional source of income and, as pupils are out touring with their teachers in the daytime, normal work/school pick up is not affected.
In hosting, you also become part of a friendly, caring network of local hosts who meet regularly. Last year, our hosts met at ‘The Gordon Highlanders Museum’ in Aberdeen to experience the same tour that their students had previously enjoyed. You’ll also have free access to French conversation classes if you are interested in improving your own spoken French.
Are we a suitable host family?
The profile of a host family is wide and varied. Hosts can be families with young children, retired couples, empty nesters and single women. What is important is an open, friendly nature and a clean, comfortable home with spare beds.
Some Common Concerns
‘We are nervous about having strangers in our home’
Students don’t stay strangers for long. With a friendly, caring approach students relax easily and so will you. Hosts often report that they don’t know what they were worried about and after a few hosting experiences, they find their stride. You can also talk to other hosts about how to ease students into your family way of life. We have a friendly network of the absolute best hosts.
‘We don’t speak their language’
You don’t need to speak the language of your student in order to be able to communicate with them. Don’t forget, they are here to speak English and even if their English is limited a lot of communication is done by gesture and very simple words. Making yourself understood and your student understand is part of the fun of it. That’s why they are here.
‘We don’t do much as a family…will they be bored?’
Students do not need to be entertained 24/7. They are often tired after a busy day of excursions and relish simple conversation and a decent plate of food. They are simply here to be part of your everyday family life.
‘I don’t have room in my house’
Students on short stays (4-6 nights) are normally hosted in pairs so will need two separate beds either in the same room or in single rooms.
‘Our children are too young…’
We have found that placing foreign students and particularly teenagers with younger siblings to work very well. It can be fun for your children to have an older brother or sister and learn about a new culture.
‘We are too old…’
We love retired couples and empty nesters because they often have the time to focus on the student. Many senior citizens report that it makes them feel young again and brings in new energy and excitement into the home.
‘What happens is something goes wrong or the student falls ill?’
The local rep is available 24/7 and works with you and the accompanying teachers to iron out any concerns you may have. This is rare as there are always ways of solving misunderstandings or bouts of homesickness that may arise.
Finally…give it go!
If you are interested in making a difference and becoming a host family, please contact Clare on 01561 378218 or 07787 858368 or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or message via www.facebook.com/languagetraveltours where you’ll find posts from host families and students alike.