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Help us provide a home for international students
International students studying in the UK build warm relationships with their host families, whether they stay for most of the academic year or just for occasional weekends and holidays.
In this blog, we’ll share the 6 easy steps to becoming a host family with Oxford Guardians, and explain what resources are available to ensure that this is a great experience for everyone involved.
1. Ask yourself if you can host an international student
Our first priority is to ensure that our students have a safe and happy home environment where they can study, relax and become familiar with the British way of life. In practice, this means they will need their own room with a desk where they can work, and Wi-Fi. They will need access to a lockable bathroom, and you must be able to care for them as part of your family.
2. Ask us if you live in an area where we need host families
Our international students need host families who live relatively near to their school, especially if they are day school students who will live with you during term time. Boarding school pupils and university students can live a little further afield. We can arrange a driver to drop them off and collect them each time they stay – but of course it is easier for everyone if travel times are short.
Sometimes, boarding school students will wish to stay in a nearby city like London or Manchester, so we can arrange travel or advise on travel options by train or coach. We also sometimes arrange short stays for students travelling internationally, so if you live near an airport or other travel hub this might be useful.
We are happy to check your postcode at an early stage, so that you know before you start how likely we are to find a suitable student to share your family home.
3. Apply to be a host family for international students in the UK
a) Application Form
We love to hear from families who are interested in sharing their home with our carefully-selected students. Just give us a call, or email [links] and we’ll send you our application form to set the ball rolling. There is no commitment at this stage, we just need to get to know each other!
Our application form asks for basic information about you and your household, including your personal information and employment history (to give us an idea of the experience you have) and character references. All being well, Oxford Guardians will then arrange a mutually convenient time for an online interview.
You will be asked in your application whether you prefer long-stay hosting (for day school pupils who will live with you during term time) or short-stay hosting (for boarding pupils who will live with you during breaks such as half term holidays and exeat weekends). The process is largely the same for either, though long-stay hosting may also involve a foster arrangement which we will look at in another article.
b) Online interview (usually by zoom)
This is our first chance to meet you online, and to help you understand how short or long homestays work at Oxford Guardians. We can cover issues like when you serve meals, what washing is involved, and to what extent you might involve your student in family life. This is also a good opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about being a host family – for example, if you are not clear about how much we pay and what expenses are covered.
If we are both happy to proceed at this stage, we will arrange to visit your home at a time that suits you.
c) Home visit
We always enjoy the chance to meet our host families in their own homes, where they can show us the bedroom and other facilities available to their international student, and we can meet the rest of the family. There is no standard size or ‘feel’ of home, so please don’t worry if you think your home may not fit the bill – we’ll let you know if there are things that need to be adapted, and of course there is still no obligation to take this any further.
During the home visit we will take photos, do a risk assessment, and ask to see important documents such any gas safety certificate, driving licence and insurance papers (we’ll let you know in advance so that you can have these ready). We will also ask for any details needed for DBS checks to be carried out on members of the household aged 16 and over (Oxford Guardians will carry out and pay for these checks).
4. Sign up to join Oxford Guardians as a host family
Parents trust us to look after their children during their studies so that the children can make the most of their time here in the UK. We need the help of caring, kind and welcoming homestay families to offer a safe and secure environment where these young people can stay.
If we are happy that you would be a good host for our international students, and you are comfortable and capable of undertaking all that involves, we would hope to sign an agreement with you to be a host family with Oxford Guardians. Depending on the speed of DBS checks, we can usually reach this point within about 4 weeks of your initial request for information. Welcome aboard!
5. Accessing host family support
Hosting an international student can be highly satisfying and rewarding, both for you as a host family and for your student guest. We don’t expect our host families to know everything right from the outset – even if you are already parents, there is a fresh dimension to looking after an extra student. So, we offer plenty of training and support to help you welcome your student guest:
Our friendly induction covers practical matters, such as how to welcome a new student, claim expenses and submit invoices.
Before you accept any homestay students, you will have completed safeguarding training, and any annual training offered by Oxford Guardians, to give you the confidence and knowledge you need.
We also offer a comprehensive handbook which helps answer many of the practical questions you may have when welcoming a student into your home. For example, our handbook covers how to deal sensitively with any cultural differences, how to cure homesickness, and when to set curfews and bedtimes.
d) 24-hour helpline
In addition to these online and written resources, our team of homestay experts is always available by phone 24 hours a day to offer support and guidance to host families in an emergency.
e) Local Guardians
Every one of our international students studying in the UK will also have a local guardian, one of the team at Oxford Guardians appointed by the family to oversee the student’s educational and emotional wellbeing. We introduce your student’s local guardian to you at an early stage, and they will visit the student regularly to share news and information.
6. Host your first, carefully matched international student
Once you have completed any training, and you and we are both happy that you will make a great host family, we will look for the right student to place with you. Our aim is to try to match our students and families for a happy and harmonious relationship, where everyone enjoys the experience of living together.
During the registration process, you have the opportunity to state any preferences you have for hosting: for example, if you prefer to host a particular gender or age range. If we find a suitable match, we share details about the student with you, including their age, gender and nationality, the school they will attend, and any known dietary or medical requirements. Our students will also be given information about their host family, including your background and interests, as provided by you.
We also ask hosts if you are willing to host in an emergency, such as an illness or suspension. In general, you will always have plenty of notice about timings. We share details such as term dates and key school breaks with you as early as possible, to ensure that these work for you.
You are ready for your first successful homestay for an international student!
Congratulations, you have brought an international perspective to your home and family life, and we hope that you and your student will continue to enjoy this rich cultural opportunity.
We are always on hand to help you with your first hosting experience. We will check in to see how you are all getting on. We find our host families soon settle down into a routine, and our students quickly become part of the family.
Once you have hosted with us, most families want to continue. We like to offer the same host and student pairings for as long as possible if everyone is happy. Of course will make any necessary changes if things just don’t work out. It will always be up to you whether you want to continue hosting international students, and what type of hosting you wish to offer.
Are you tempted?
If you feel that hosting international students is right for your family, please take that first step by calling or emailing us for a quick chat. We are always looking for caring and welcoming families willing to give international students a home-from-home whilst they study in the UK, and welcome any questions.
Please contact us on email email@example.com or on 01604 859 331.