Many British families up and down the country choose to host Summer Language students in their homes each year in order to make some additional income from their spare rooms, add a little culture to their lives or to enjoy some varied company throughout the year.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to become a Host Family, there is quite a bit to consider before opening up your home. This post is not intended scare-monger or put you off hosting, but merely to provide honest and realistic information that you may not have considered before making this important decision.
- Insurance – I can’t stress enough how import this is. It is NOT the responsibility of the Language School to insure your home against damage caused by any of their students, this lies firmly with you. Accidents happen, some are less expensive to fix than others, but it’s definitely not worth risking for the sake of a couple of hundred pounds a year. As a host family you should ensure that a) your insurance provider is aware that you have paying guests under the age of 18 staying in your home and b) you have adequate accidental damage cover in conjunction with point a). Even having a paying student in your home and not declaring it to your insurance company could invalidate your policy. If you are planning to provide front door keys to your students, you will want to check what your policies conditions are on this specific aspect.
- Gas Safety Certificate – any responsible Language School will insist on an up to date copy of this each year, although worryingly, some schools don’t even ask for one (!) If you have Gas appliances in your home you should have a full service and Gas Safety check (these are separate things) annually to ensure your appliances are safe and fit for use. If you do not and your students suffer any accidents or worse, a fatality as a result, your insurance will probably not cover you for any claims made against you (which really would be the least of your worries in this instance).
- Willingness to adapt – having students in your home is not just about providing a bed. You are taking on the responsibility for someone else’s child, their safety and well-being, and their education whilst they are in your home. You are also giving up your freedom to walk around the house in your underwear! Think carefully about your own family dynamic, how your own children will adapt to having new faces in the house, how you will manage your own family routines and existing commitments around the students’, whether or not it’s okay for your friends from Canada to come and stay whilst you have students under the age of 18 staying with you? (the answer is ‘no’ unless they are DBS checked).
- The social aspect – at the end of the week many British families crack open a bottle of wine, order a cheeky take-away and snuggle down on the sofa whilst winding down after a busy week. If your glass of wine normally turns into a bottle (or two) over the weekends, hosting students may not be something that is right for your family. Whilst having a glass or two of wine over dinner is not a problem, excessive intake of alcohol and/or late-night partying is not okay when you are responsible for other people’s children. Think carefully about how you socialise as a family and whether or not having students to stay is going to impact how you like to relax in your home.
- ‘Just for family’ space – this one is the biggest indicators for me as a Language Provider in terms of whether or not hosting students is right for a family. Bedrooms aside, if you are planning to have a communal area of your home (kitchen, living room, dining area etc.) set aside as ‘just for family’ then I would suggest that hosting students is not for you! The whole concept of hosting students in your home is to make them feel welcome, included and part of your daily family life. If they are banished to their bedrooms whilst you and your family are getting cozy watching a movie in the living room, they are not going to feel wanted or included.
If you have got to the end of this list and still feel like you are ready to open your home up to Summer Language students, then do! The rewards are plentiful for both your own family and your student, and often life-long friendships are made, with reciprocal visits being made to your student’s homes in future years. It’s not easy all the time, but it’s definitely enjoyable in the right setting and with ground rules firmly established from the outset.