International students find home-from-home with local hosts

Every year, thousands of school age overseas students are educated at independent schools across the UK. When their school closes for half term holidays and exeat weekends, they need a host family who will provide a home away from home.

“All of the Oundle International students are required to have a Guardian over the age of 25 in the UK as part of the terms of their study visa. Not everyone realises this,” said Vicky Dickinson, the area manager for the East Midlands.

Pippa’s Guardians has been providing high quality Guardianship services to international students for over 20 years and understands the value of a good home and how a host family can positively impact on a student’s wellbeing.

Pippa’s Guardians are currently recruiting host families locally, with their students currently based at schools in Oundle, Oakham and Uppingham.

As well as receiving a generous payment, becoming a Pippa’s Guardians host family provides the opportunity to really make a difference to a student whilst they are studying here in the UK, in many cases a very long way from home.

The families they look for are welcoming and interested in other cultures. Having children of similar ages helps, but isn’t the most important thing as they have many successful host families who have no children, younger children or indeed older children who have left home. Internet access is very important and each student will need their own bedroom with a desk or somewhere quiet for homework. Being part of a family and experiencing day-to-day family life enhances students’ study and plays a part in improving their English language.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, some of our host families have been exceptional, and the lockdown has made it clear just how fantastic they are. Pippa’s Guardians heard so many life-affirming stories from their host families, both those who have helped students catch repatriation flights – often at short notice – and those still looking after students who have chosen or needed to stay in the UK,” she said.

When the Summer Term started, online learning became an essential part of students’ days, and Pippa’s Guardians host families had to quickly adapt to supporting their students attend online lessons, from ensuring their teenage charges are at their desks at 9am to the challenges of registering for online study and even supervising virtual music lessons.

“We’ve heard countless stories of the caring, supportive spirit for which Pippa’s Guardians host families are renowned.”

The local Area Managers look after the students during term time and are close by to support host families when the students stay in their homes.

Mrs Dickinson said that during term time, “I take on the role of ‘UK Mum’ for 34 students. I visit everyone in school, attend their concerts, sports matches and Parents’ Receptions, as well as sorting out their travel to and from the airports and host families.”

The half term holidays fall in October for two weeks, for one week in February and one week in May. Exeat weekends take place up to three times a year and are usually for two or three nights each time. Most students travel back home to their families for the long holidays in the summer, at Christmas and at Easter.

“Our students come from all over the world,” said Mrs Dickinson. It is a marvellous and interesting way to learn about the cultures, traditions and daily life of young people and their families from countries very different to our own. Many of our host families form lifelong friendships with our students and their families and stay in touch even after they have left school for university.”

Meagan Iu
May 2020