Hosts - FAQ
These are the questions we are most often asked. The first group are questions asked by people thinking about becoming occasional hosts to international students.
The second group are questions people ask after they have joined HOST and started hosting.
Before you decide to join HOST
After you have joined HOST
Before you decide to join HOST
Does it matter that I don't live near a university or college? (BACK TO TOP)
Not at all. Some students ask to visit a host near their place of study, but many are prepared to travel to meet a host in a different part of the country. Some students long to get out of the city and explore the countryside.
I live alone, so is it appropriate to be a host? (BACK TO TOP)
We are careful no to tell students that they will be staying with a 'family'. Quite a member of our hosts live alone. Students often appreicate the care and attention alone host can give them. But if you have the space, you may find it easier to welcome two students at once. HOST has a policy in place which allows single female hosts to take only female students and single male hosts to take only male students. This is to ensure the safety and comfort of both students and hosts.
I am old enough to be a student’s grandparent, am I too old? (BACK TO TOP)
Many young people love visiting their grandparents! You have life experience to share with someone from another culture. But if our younger students (in their early 20’s) are a bit too energetic for you, we can find you someone a little more mature.
It's very quiet where I live, won't they want some night-life? (BACK TO TOP)
There is plenty of night-life available in most university towns. Students on HOST visits are looking for a taste of home life in the UK. They will expect to spend their time with you, and in your local community.
Does HOST know the students, or does anyone check up on them? (BACK TO TOP)
HOST checks that all applicants are registered on full-time courses at UK institutions. This authorisation comes from a designated person in the university, usually the International Student Adviser. This person does not necessarily know the student personally. HOST’s Regional Organiser, who will link the student with you, is in contact with the student and can ask any questions on your behalf before you agree to offer an invitation.
What does a HOST visit involve? (BACK TO TOP)
Every visit is different, but these things are common to almost all visits: meeting the guest at your nearest rail or bus station, and returning them to the station at the end of the visit; having meals together (sometimes, cooking together); an outing or two to see your area (but not a touristic initiation into the whole county!); a chance to meet other people, especially if you live alone—perhaps your family, perhaps at a community event; plenty of chatting; and time to relax.
Will my guest speak English? (BACK TO TOP)
Yes. Some have English as their first language; some have been educated in English for a long time. All are in higher education here and must have enough English to cope with that. But some have had few opportunities to use English in a social context, and a HOST visit can really help with that. You may struggle to understand one another in the beginning, but you will find that you soon ‘tune in’.
Will they eat what we do? (BACK TO TOP)
Some have dietary requirements, which you will be told about before you agree to invite them. Otherwise, they are looking forward to some home cooking, and real British food. Please be aware that some Chinese students will not be used to knives and forks, just as many British people are unused to chopsticks. But they will have fun learning!
What about the cost? (BACK TO TOP)
HOST is a voluntary activity, and we can only offer a small sum after the visit towards your expenses. (About 50% of our hosts choose not to claim this.) There will be costs for the extra food, and for your petrol. But please do not feel that you need to spend a lot of money entertaining your guest. It is not necessary to take them out for meals, nor to the theatre or cinema (although by all means do so if you wish). If you plan an outing which involves entrance money, please make it clear to your guest beforehand what they will need to pay—and offer a non-paying alternative as well, so your guest is not embarrassed.
Could I invite more than one student at a time? (BACK TO TOP)
Certainly. Sometimes friends apply together; sometimes we have married couples. But we can also put two students together (with their agreement) who do not know each other—we try to choose two from different universities and countries. Having two can add interest, and may take the pressure off the host, especially if you live alone.
What do I need to do to join HOST? (BACK TO TOP)
Please contact us. We will pass on your enquiry to our voluntary regional organiser (RO) for your area. This person will contact you, give you all the information you need, and will ask to come and meet you in your home. You will be asked to complete a registration form, and your details will be entered on our secure database.
What will happen next? (BACK TO TOP)
Your RO will be your link with HOST. They will call you when they have a student they think you might like to invite, taking into consideration all you have told them about your interest in hosting. You are under no obligation to offer an invitation, but if you do, the RO will give you and your guest each other’s details, and then you make the arrangements directly with your guest. The RO will always be available for advice and support.
How much notice will I have before a visit? (BACK TO TOP)
This does vary, but usually at least two weeks, and sometimes a couple of months. You are welcome to tell your RO how much notice you prefer.
What level of commitment is HOST looking for? (BACK TO TOP)
There are two answers to this: total, and none!
Once a visit has been arranged, we hope for total commitment from host and student. At their best, students purchase tickets in advance, and plan their work and other engagements so that they can be free to enjoy their visit. (Illness, or the sudden imposition of deadlines, or projects involving their colleagues, can of course sometimes upset their plans.) We are grateful that hosts very rarely cancel, but of course if you are unable to go ahead with the visit, you must let your RO know and we will take care of it.
We ask for no commitment from hosts in terms of frequency of invitations. We hope you will enjoy your first experience of HOSTing, and that you will want to do it again—maybe a couple of times a year, maybe more—it is up to you.
After you have joined HOST
I have not heard from my guest - does this mean they are not coming? (BACK TO TOP)
If you have had no contact from your guest AT ALL, then it is most unlikely they will just turn up. But HOST does not want you to be in this situation.
After you and the student have received each other’s details from your RO, please try to establish contact immediately. If you do not hear from your guest, they may be a little shy about approaching you first: a message of welcome from you will encourage them. But if you have not heard from them within A WEEK from issuing the invitation, please inform your RO.
Often students do make initial contact, but are very slow to confirm their arrival time. Please be sympathetic—they do work under intense pressure much of the time. But again, please encourage them with a message or phone call; and inform your RO if you still don’t know their arrival time FIVE DAYS before the visit.
My guest didn't offer to pay for anything - is this right? (BACK TO TOP)
If you are asking this question, you are not alone! We are aware that some students appear to have more spending money than their hosts—yet they don’t offer to pay their way. Why is this? Here are some possible answers:
- They have been informed by HOST that their visit is FREE, and that their hosts will treat them as friends of the family.
- In their culture, it would be insulting for a guest to offer to ‘pay their way’ (as it would imply that they thought their host was not generous).
- They are young people who are accustomed to adults picking up the bill, and they feel shy or embarrassed to ‘treat’, or offer money to, a much older person.
- They have not been given the chance to say they would rather not go on an outing which is too expensive for them.
As the host, you are in charge of the visit, and it is best if you lead the way as tactfully as you can. Before your guest even arrives, you can make suggestions as to what you might be able to do during the weekend, mentioning any entrance fees they might incur, and always offering a cheaper or free alternative activity. (HOST sometimes hears of guests being asked to pay for theatre tickets purchased in advance without any consultation—this is not fair.) If you choose to eat out during the weekend, please regard that as your treat since, by inviting them, you have undertaken to provide your guest’s meals. On the other hand, there is no harm in suggesting that a student buys a snack to keep himself going on an outing until your next meal.
Could you please tell students...? (BACK TO TOP)
HOST does give students quite a lot of advice about how to conduct themselves on a visit to someone’s home. You are very welcome to read all the advice on this website (see Student FAQ, and How to make yourself at home) and we have some printed material for students too.
What we cannot do is force them to read it, let alone heed it! And the more we throw at them, the less likely they are to take it in.
The vast majority of students have no intention to offend or inconvenience their hosts, and quite a lot worry beforehand that they might do this accidentally. If they behave inappropriately this may be through ignorance, inexperience, thoughtlessness, confusion, misunderstanding, shyness or lack of the right words to say what they mean politely.
We like to place all these errors under the umbrella of ‘cultural difference’, whether we mean the culture of a country, a generation or personal background. And it does work both ways. If guests are ‘culturally different’ from their hosts, then it follows that the hosts are ‘culturally different’ from their guests.
A sense of humour, and a tactful explanation, is often all that is needed to turn a potential offence into part of the fun and interest of a HOST visit.
But, if your guest is seriously out of order, please do not hesitate to call your RO for advice while it is still possible to do something about it.
Why are all the students you offer me Chinese? (BACK TO TOP)
Currently, just over half of our student applicants are from China, and if we add the ethnically Chinese students from other SE Asian countries, the proportion rises to two-thirds. If you live in an area with a high concentration of Chinese students, then the proportion may increase, because of the numbers of applicants requesting visits near their place of study.
HOST is aware that many hosts joined in order to ‘welcome the world’, and not just China. We do ask our ROs to distribute the non-Chinese students fairly. And we do try to encourage other nationalities to apply. However, there is a shortage of European applicants, since those from EU countries are not generally regarded by the universities as international students.
After the Chinese (from mainland China), our next biggest country group (a long way behind at only 8.8%) is the USA. This is almost entirely due to the American universities in London, which take students from the US for short ‘study abroad’ periods. These students are undergraduates aged 18-22, and a HOST visit is often their only chance to connect with British people. A few of these students are ethnically Chinese.