Studying English in the UK is an immersive experience, and host families play a vital role in looking after students. Choosing to live with a host family gives students great value for money, and means they can experience UK culture and practice English in the evenings.
English UK member centres work closely with their host families to make sure students are well cared for, and staying in homes where they will be happy.
Cindy Buswell lives in Cardiff and has been hosting students with her husband David for 30 years, since her children were young. She works with several schools, including English UK member Celtic English Academy. We met her to find out more:
Do you enjoy hosting students?
Yes. We enjoy learning about other people's cultures. David normally sits after dinner with the students talking to them, and they're very interesting.
Until you sit and think about it you don't realise how difficult the English language is to learn. There are all the same meanings for one word, and the different spellings. It must be so difficult for them and I admire them for doing it.
What kind of students do you take?
Most of them are long-term, anything from three months to a year. We had an Italian girl who stayed for six months, went home for six months and came back for another six months. I am still in contact with her. I prefer long-term students, but in the summer I take short-termers. We've always got a full house.
Do you get close to your students?
They become members of the family. We have a student from Korea at the moment and every time she goes away she buys us something, which is very nice of her. I say she mustn't do that but she keeps buying for us because she likes it here. She's going home next month and I think we're going to have big tears!
Do ex-students stay in touch?
I've got a book for postcards and thank-you letters, but nowadays it's so much easier to keep in contact with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. We're all on Facebook together and wish each other happy birthday.
What happens if a placement doesn't work?
We've had the occasional student that doesn't fit in, and we work with the school to move them somewhere which will suit them better. That doesn't happen often – I think 2 or 3 times in 30 years. They were happier somewhere else.
What's the best thing about being a host family?
Learning about different cultures. At the moment I've got students from Korea, China, and Japan at the moment and they say 'in my country we do this, in my country we do that'. They learn from each other.
I've had a 62-year-old Japanese lady here for four weeks learning English. She made us a lovely Japanese meal. We had tempura and salmon and it was lovely. A young girl from Hungary made us a fantastic goulash.
Tell us a bit more about your home and what happens there.
I've got a five-bedroom house, with three bathrooms. We take four students.
I've got games here and they play Monopoly or Connect 4 together in the evenings and that improves their English because they're talking to each other. I always, always correct them so they're having free English lessons while they're here as well.
What do you cook?
It varies. Tonight we're having chicken in a mushroom sauce with rice because our current students love rice. I do curries, spaghetti bolognaise, I do stews and make my own soup. I sit and eat with the students.
What happens when students arrive?
I show them around the house, and explain they can help themselves to fruit and have tea and coffee whenever they like. They will make their own breakfasts, so I show them where they'll find bread, cheese, yoghurt and the toaster.
Then I take them around the area in the car, show them where the bus stops and school are. If they come on a Sunday I'll normally take them to school on Monday morning.
Have you got any advice for students?
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