Volunteer to host an overseas student

By Sallie Grayson. Filed in guest posts  |  
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So many of our volunteers travel to volunteer because they want to really get to know other cultures. All say they have experienced such warmth and hospitality from their hosts – here’s a great chance to host students from another culture – extend the hand of friendship – to learn more visit www.hostuk.org

Here is just one story from HOST:

“The African student sat for a long time, gazing at the coal effect fire in his host’s home. Then he sighed and said, ‘My father would dearly love to know where he could get fuel like that…’

“… for cooking, rather than keeping warm, of course. If you are hoping to travel abroad, or you have recently returned, you may well relish a climate where coal-effect fires are not needed. And you will probably agree that in many countries people are more friendly, open and hospitable than we appear to be in Britain. The climate may have a lot to do with that.

“Many students come from overseas to universities in the UK and the cold weather and wariness of strangers are just two of the challenges they face.”

“They come  hoping to have an authentic experience of the British way of life; yet they have no means of making contact with people outside the very international environment of the university; and no hope of a homely break.

“For the last 26 years a small charity, HOST, has been addressing this situation. Through a network of approved volunteer hosts, students can receive invitations to spend a day, a weekend, or a few days at Christmas, visiting a private home as a friend of the family.

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“The first thing that impresses is the generosity of the hosts, who spend time chatting, cooking and eating with them, introducing them to their own area and community.  This crash course in local culture – ‘I learnt more about Britain that weekend than in 3 months on campus’ – can sometimes throw up some surprises. ‘I was so amazed,’ wrote a student from China, ‘how polite the husband and wife were to each other.’ ‘My host was quite old,’ commented another, ‘but I couldn’t believe how active and interested in life she was. I want to be like her.’

‘I didn’t know that parents in the early morning of Christmas day, put an empty glass of wine and half a mince pie, to tell their children that Father Christmas was here,’ wrote Ghalia, after her ‘awesome’ Christmas with a host family in SW London. They loved having her too – a stranger in the house at Christmas can have a wonderful effect on the usual bickering! – and said: ‘Ghalia was a lovely person, very bright. She fitted well with our family and adapted very easily. It was an opportunity to meet someone from Damascus.’

When they listen to the news, that family must think of their Syrian guest, now back in the Middle East, wondering how things are with her family. Welcoming students from other countries is at least doing something to make the world a friendlier place.

HOST urgently needs more invitations to prevent disappointment. If you would like to meet a student, perhaps from the country you are going to or returning from, please see www.hostuk.org or call HOST 020 7739 6292. Thank you.”

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