Bringing the world into the home

Homestay host family, the Blunts, share their experience hosting students from all over the world who come to Brisbane to study English at the Institute for Continuing & TESOL Education at The University of Queensland (ICTE-UQ). Mother Susan Blunt writes. 

We are a busy family, working mum and dad and four children – three of them teenagers.

Why add another person to the mix? Well it makes life more interesting, more fun, you learn things, you are kinder to each other and you start collecting extra family members from all around the world – hosting a homestay student has absolutely been a rewarding and fun experience for our family.

As a family of six, international travel is beyond our means and sadly school trips (at my children’s schools) are not being taken any longer. I have daughters who study languages and love the idea of learning about the “way” other people in the world do things.

My thought was that this was a way I could bring some of the world to us. I thought it might be a bit difficult adding another personality into the mix…..how much will I worry about the student, will they be happy with us, will my house still feel like home and will my children be happy? I had all these questions.

Well it has been fantastic! We have hosted three young men (our fourth is with us now) and they have all been outstanding, kind and an absolute delight to share our lives and home with. We have converted each of them to the game of AFL, exposed family teasing at dinner time and relaxed together on pizza night in front of the TV.

 Susan Blunt's three daughters with their ICTE-UQ homestay student Ka Sing Chan from Hong Kong
Caption: Susan Blunt's three daughters with their ICTE-UQ homestay student Ka Sing Chan from Hong Kong

We remain in contact with our students now that they have returned to their homes, but they are not “students” any more but family. We miss them and talk about the times we have had with each of them and enjoy these happy memories.

In a practical sense we are more organised, which is great for me as we had let that terrible habit of different meals and meal times creep in because everyone is legitimately so busy these days. So although that is true, dinner is together most nights at the table – devices are put away for 20 to 30 minutes, we eat and talk together – just for that short time at least – that has been terrific.  The students can practise English and my children practise considering another language, and table manners and table conversation is inclusive – all wonderful life skills. We also learn about how different day-to-day life is at home for our students.

Just last Sunday – after two of my daughters had won an AFL Grand Final and posted the news on social media – I received a direct message for our first homestay student, “Hi Mum, tell my sisters I am so proud of them” – that melted my heart. How wonderful to think, by inviting a young man who is learning another language to come bravely into our home, eat different food, share a home with people he has never met and navigate an unknown public transport system, he leaves us feeling like a part of him is with us and vice-versa.

Sounds a bit soppy, but I have been genuinely overwhelmed by what we have gained from this experience. It is so much more than I could ever have imagined. And a side note, I know I am not their “Mum” and you don’t have to “mother” them, but it makes my family all feel great when that level of connection has been created. The experience can be whatever style you want it to be to fit your family – only thing that is certain – you will love it!

Find out more about ICTE-UQ’s homestay accommodation for students or becoming a homestay host.

Last updated:
10 February 2017