Embracing cultural exchange as a long stay host familyNovember 15, 2023
Christmas holidays for international studentsDecember 1, 2023
Hosting boarding school pupils for exeats is rewarding for all
In an increasingly interconnected world, the opportunity to support cultural exchange whilst sharing family life with a carefully selected foreign student is invaluable. Becoming a short stay host family for foreign students attending boarding schools in the UK is a rewarding experience that not only enriches your life, but also has a profound impact on the lives of these students.
In this blog, we will look at the benefits of becoming a host family to students who need a home for shorter breaks (such as half-term holidays and exeat weekends) rather than throughout the academic year. At Oxford Guardians our short stay host families provide short homestays across the UK.
Why do international students need a short stay host family?
International students studying at boarding schools in England may not always be able to travel home for the holidays, so can miss out on family life. Unlike British students, they may live too far from their friends and relatives to return home, particularly for shorter holidays such as exeats (twice-termly weekend breaks, usually from Friday lunchtime to Sunday evening), half terms and sometimes Easter holidays.
Short stay host families are the wonderful people who step in to provide a home from home for these international students during the short periods when their boarding school is closed. Our host families welcome foreign students into their family, sharing their home and family life. In return, they experience the pleasure of broadening the cultural horizons of both their student guest and their own family; build lifelong relationships; and have the pleasure of helping nurture and support the student, as well as financial rewards.
Our host families are located across the UK. We try and allocate international students to host families living within half an hour’s drive of their boarding school to reduce the time they spend travelling, particularly for shorter breaks.
Schools generally publish their calendars a year ahead, so host families will have plenty of time to plan. Occasionally, families may be asked to host an international student at short notice in unexpected situations such as cancelled flights or unusual arrival and departure times.
Where are your international short homestay students studying?
Short stay host families offer a home from home for foreign students attending independent or international boarding schools in the UK. At Oxford Guardians we arrange short stay homestays for students from the ages of 8 to 20, though most of our short term homestay students are between 13 and 18.
Students attending independent or international day schools will require long stay homestays (a home during the full academic year): please see our article on long stay host families here.
Is a host family the same as an education guardian?
No, a host family is not automatically the formal guardian of international students living with them (though you can ask to be considered for this appointment too). Oxford Guardians has a dedicated team of local education guardians who perform this role.
Local education guardians are appointed for each international student to provide extra support for them. They also keep the family abroad up to date with their school progress and general wellbeing. As a host, you will be introduced to our local education guardian, who will visit each student regularly either at home or at school. The team at Oxford Guardians and your student’s local guardian are available to help both the student and your family with any issues that arise.
The role of our caring, welcoming host families is simply to offer a safe and secure environment where the young people under our education guardianship can stay when their boarding school or college is closed.
Is my family suitable as a short stay host for international students?
Host families for international students can be couples with their own children, couples whose children have grown up and flown the nest, or people who simply want to open their home to an international student studying in the UK. Successful homestay hosts are genuinely interested in offering a home from home to a foreign student and welcoming them as part of the family.
Oxford Guardians takes great care in selecting and then supporting our host families. We make sure the family has the right amount of information about the student’s background and needs, and we provide round-the-clock access to support, if needed.
Short stay hosting is a rewarding experience for your family
Short stay host families have the pleasure of sharing their home for short periods of time with one or more international students in the UK. They offer a safe and reliable home base for the student(s) during half term holidays and specified weekends, and often build strong relationships with them.
Hosting an international student as one of the family at key stages across the three terms of the British academic year means you see at first hand how they mature and progress. Oxford Guardians’ students arrive full of talent and a desire to try new things. Fostering this spirit of adventure is a key aspect of what we do, so we encourage host families to integrate their student into family activities. International students at boarding school really appreciate an activity or treat during their half term or exeat, which means this can be a great opportunity to share a family adventure or try something new together (and of course we refund the student expenses from the deposit we hold for this purpose).
Although you will not have the same day-to-day involvement as long term host families for day pupils, you will support the emotional wellbeing and academic progress of your student. You will be giving ‘parental guidance’ when it comes to homework, making life decisions and dealing with emotions. It can be very rewarding for host families to share the triumphs and challenges of their students. In many cases this relationship with your student becomes a cherished experience for the whole family.
Hosting an international student is inspiring for your own children
We encourage you to treat your international student as part of the family. This helps the student feel more relaxed and safe, and means any other children in your family are likely to develop good relationships with them.
Our host families find that the students provide friendship and company for their own children, particularly only children or those whose older siblings have left home. An international student may also give your children the opportunity to practise a foreign language during the time they share, inspiring them to learn more or travel abroad; whilst subtly developing their own social and hosting skills.
Embracing cultural exchange for the whole family
In our multicultural world it is becoming increasingly important for people of all ages to understand and embrace cultural differences. Oxford Guardians’ international students come from all over the world, including countries such as Japan, Iran, Italy, China, and India.
By welcoming a student from another country or culture into your home, you open your family’s eyes to diverse religions, rights and customs, fostering mutual respect and appreciation. At the same time, you are helping your student guest to understand your own culture and give them the opportunity to learn about British life – a real gift that will help your family shape the world view of both your student and their own family abroad.
Earning income as a host family
As a short stay host family you can claim agreed expenses, and will be paid a fee for hosting each student. Under current UK taxation the Rent a Room Scheme lets you earn up to a threshold of £7,500 per year tax-free from letting out furnished accommodation in your home. Please contact us if you are interested in finding out how much you can earn as a homestay family.
Short hosting in practice
We work hard to ensure that a guest international student is well-matched with their host family, often right down to checking whether they will be comfortable with your pets! Where possible we will keep the same student and host family together over the academic year (and for longer if both parties are happy). This means the student can become settled and your family can build a great relationship with them.
Host families are often located near to the boarding school where their international student studies, and we always arrange transport to ensure that our students reach their homestay safely. We also arrange transport for students who are leaving for holidays, or to stay with friends or family, so you do not have to worry about organising these details for your student.
How do you select suitable homestay families?
We want international families to know that their children are safe and well supported when they study in the UK. Oxford Guardians’ host families are therefore subject to checks and screening to comply with our own high standards of care, and to ensure we maintain our Gold Standard accreditation with AEGIS (The Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students).
Host families will need to take safety precautions, such as having smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and a gas certificate. Your student should also have their own, furnished room, with access to a lockable bathroom, and other shared rooms in the house. Please contact us if you would like to see a full list of our homestay requirements.
Our application process includes a home visit to ensure that you can offer suitable accommodation and make a risk assessment; an interview; and DBS checks. If you feel you can offer a student a welcoming homestay and we are happy with the outcome of your application, you will be included in our list of available short term host families in your area.
We offer a wide range of training, support and guidance to our host families, so you need never feel you are on your own. Our extensive Homestay Family Handbook includes sections on everything from how to deal with homesickness to suggested bedtimes. You will also have dedicated support from the Oxford Guardians’ team, including emergency contact numbers.
Join our host family community
We are building a strong network of kind families who will welcome international students studying in the UK into their homes for short term homestays. Our host families say they love hosting students through Oxford Guardians: “They bring life to our home. We are so well supported, with help at the end of the phone. A great and worthwhile experience.”
If you would like to join us as a short stay host for independent or international boarding school students in your area, please get in touch now for more information.
For more information on becoming a host family and joining our team please contact us on email firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01604 859 331.