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Help international students feel welcome in the UK through HostUK

By Margaret Stevens, HostUK

Wednesday 17 December 2014 International students

A few hundred lucky international students will be experiencing a ‘British family Christmas’ thanks to invitations to people’s homes through HOST.

Xu Jingya from China is excitedly looking forward to spending Christmas with a British family. The alternative – being stuck on the almost deserted campus of the University of Surrey – was a rather lonely prospect, which gave her no chance to find out how ordinary people in this country celebrate their biggest holiday. Jingya’s invitation came through HOST.

HOST has been linking international students with welcoming volunteer hosts across the UK for the last 27 years. ‘Our scheme is open to all international students in the UK,’ explains HOST CEO Susie Alemayehu, ‘although it is mainly students at our 83 subscribing institutions who hear about us.’

A HOST invitation gives international students a unique opportunity to experience British culture by engaging in the home and community life of their hosts. Weekend invitations are available all year round, but needless to say, Christmas visits are especially popular – and at Christmas there are never enough invitations to go round.

‘I am so lucky,’ says Jingya, ‘to have this chance – some of my friends were too late. I first met my hosts when they invited me for a weekend in the spring. They were kind enough to cook me a Christmas dinner then. But now they’ve invited me back for the real thing, and I will be able to see how the family enjoy this time together – not just hear about it, but be part of it.’

If you are an international student, see www.hostuk.org to find out how you could make friends with British residents and learn about their way of life.

If you are a UK student, perhaps your family could welcome a guest far from their own home for a weekend, or next Christmas!