Many of my friends who have studied abroad have had an excellent experience by choosing a homestay. London families can give you a chance to immerse yourself in the local culture and improve your English.
Most students who have enjoyed successful homestays tell me that the key to success can be found in thinking about two elements: what your host expects from you and what you should expect from your host.
What Your Host Expects
It is important that as soon as you arrive (or as soon as is practical) you and your host agree on some house rules. Here are some examples of fairly common issues:
- Bathroom usage in the mornings – Everyone needs to get showered and get out of the house by a certain time so figuring out a schedule to accommodate this will help you have a good relationship with the whole household.
- Sleep routines – Find out what time the household members go to bed so that you know when you should turn down your music or TV. London has a great night life but do make sure you talk to your host family about when you are planning to come home
- Cleaning – Ask your host about some of the basics for keeping the house neat, such as how to load the dishwasher, where to stack clean dishes and where to find cloths and bin liners. While you shouldn’t be asked to do cleaning, you should still tidy up after yourself.
You’ll get the most out of your experience if you get on with the family hosting the homestay. London is like the rest of the UK where it is normal to say hello and goodbye every time you come and go.
What You Should Expect
I have always believed that having realistic expectations is the secret to being satisfied, and being prepared is particularly crucial for the success of a homestay. London host families usually live outside the centre of the city. The bigger, more residential homes tend to be found in zones 2-5, and this will mean a bus or tube ride to reach the centre.
However, the transport system is superb. Even if you are living in zone there is normally easy access to central London – and these days quite a few of the tube lines have a 24-hour service.
Living with a family with local knowledge is the biggest advantage of a homestay. London is a huge city with lots of potential, and you’ll get the most from it if you ask your hosts for advice.
They will know how to get to places (like your school) from their house, where to eat, where to shop, etc. They might even be able to recommend some money saving tips. You should make sure you take advantage of their experience.
Your host family will be providing and sharing some meals with you during your stay and, having a discussion about likes and dislikes right at the beginning can prevent disagreements later.
In my opinion you should be open to trying any local dishes that the family prepares, and you should also expect to have filling and balanced meals. Let them know if you have any allergies or if there are any foods you particularly dislike.
Making Friends with Your Host Family
Once you have established the expectations of both sides you might want to find ways to become friends as your relationship with each other develops over the homestay. Londoners are usually keen to learn about new cultures, and your family will probably be curious about your life and your experiences.
You could show them photos from your home – this will give them an insight into how you live – or you could offer to cook a traditional dish for everyone every now and then. You should also try to join in discussions at meal times. Not only will this help you build your relationship, it will be an excellent way to improve your English.
Studying abroad is an opportunity to get exposure to a different culture and to improve your language skills. Nothing achieves these goals more effectively than a homestay. London is full of wonderful families who want to share their homes with international students. At Britannia Student Services we would be delighted to find a welcoming space for you with one of these families. Talk to our team to find out more.