Cambridge is an incredible city for families. It’s an even better place for tourists – and international students are a huge part of that community. We’ve been hosting international students in our Cambridge home for the last year so I thought it might be useful to do a Q & A round up of the questions we’ve been asked – and which we asked before we became hosts!
Why do you host students?
For lots of reasons! Now that we’ve moved house we have two spare bedrooms and our family bathroom is rarely used because we have en suites. It makes sense to have students live with us and use the space. I’ll write about the money aspects later on – it’s certainly not the biggest benefit from the arrangement 😉
The main benefit of having students live with us is that our boys have company and bigger sister types around them – they’re not getting the chance to feel awkward around girls as they become teenagers. There’s always someone around to tease them, help them with their homework and teach them rude words in different languages!
We also love to host international students because it’s setting a great example for our own boys – an expectation in their minds for travel, having adventures and going off to do their own thing. And we didn’t expect it – but we now have families in several countries who have offered to host our boys when they’re ready to travel themselves!
Where do you find your students?
Our students come to us via the EF language school on Hills Road. I emailed and applied by filling in some forms. This was followed up with a home visit where they checked out our house and family before adding us to the Host Families list.
What happens in the home visit?
It takes 60 – 90 minutes and involves filling in paperwork on which types of students you’re happy to host. Vegetarian? Vegan? Under 18? Over 18? Male? Female? There were so many questions – I can’t remember them all but they were low level.
How long do the students stay with you?
Students can stay anywhere from two weeks to a full year. It depends on which English language school they are studying with and the level of English they intend to study.
How good is the English of the students who stay with you?
It varies. Sometimes students are really strong with their English speaking and comprehension skills. Other times, they have very little English at all. Students may tell you that they understand things and nod but often they don’t.
What rules do you set for students?
We have a set of family rules which we email to students before they arrive and we go through them together once they are with us. I’ll post it below as a png and also as text, so that if you’re starting out, you can copy and edit whatever text you want to use.
WESTON FAMILY – HOUSE RULES
Welcome to our home! We have very few rules – we want you to feel at home and have fun with us…
Showers can be taken from 06:30 to 21:00. As 8 people need showers, please use the bathroom for 15 minutes.
We provide breakfast – everything is on the side in the kitchen. Please treat our home as you would your own – when you have finished with your plates please take them into the kitchen and leave them on the side.
Family dinner is at 6.15pm. If you do not need dinner please text Liz before 4pm. If you do want dinner, but will be home late, please also text Liz before 4pm so we can keep it to one side for when you are home.
When you leave the house, please close and lock the front door behind you as you go out – we keep our dog in the house. It is very dangerous for him to go outside.
Sunday to Thursday curfew is 23:00. Friday and Saturday curfew is 24:00. Please be quiet from 22:00 onwards – we go to bed early so that we can make the most of our busy family life together.
Please do not take food without asking permission first.
Please do not eat food in your bedrooms. Drinks need to have a lid or screw top.
We are a non smoking family. There is no smoking in our garden. If you need to smoke please move away from the house.
Liz Weston – mobile:
Richard Weston – mobile:
You are staying at: << Insert Address >>
We are here to help you have fun. If you have a problem or are worried please always call or text us – we are here to help 🙂 If there is anything which we can do to help you have more fun or make your stay with our family better please tell us – we love hosting students and want you to feel welcome and have a great time with us!
MOST IMPORTANTLY – our wifi is
and the password is
What annoys you about hosting students?
It depends on when you’re asking!! Their curfew on Friday and Saturday is midnight (set by the School) and we usually stay awake until they text to say that they are home. It’s our issue that we stay awake – or rather, Richard does – and annoys me by talking to me about whether they are home or not.
It’s also sometimes annoying when students say that they’re out for the evening, but they will still want dinner when they are home late. It’s not their fault at all – and we want them to be out having fun! But once we’ve done dinner and the dishwasher and sorted the kitchen out, we’ve still got dinners on the side, covered up, which they want at 9.30pm when we’re getting ready to go to bed. Again, this is our issue – because we want to make sure they get their dinner. We know lots of families leave food covered on the side for their students and leave them to tidy away and sort themselves out. But so far, we haven’t. As I read this back to myself, I realise that we make the arrangement more work than we need to. I think we’re going to be revisiting some things going forwards!
What do you do for the students?
EF Language School require that we provide breakfast and dinner. If the students are at home over lunchtime on the weekends, we provide soup and bread which the students get for themselves – because they usually stay in bed until 2pm ish! They then eat and go into Cambridge and hang out with friends, and have dinner out – or have it later when they come home.
Some other schools require that you provide a packed lunch each day – the families who we know who do this offer a cheese or ham sandwich, piece of fruit, packet of crisps and a biscuit bar. The students get their own drinks using water bottles at school. They put them all together for the week ahead and leave students to collect them as they go out each day.
Do you wash their clothes?
No, because our insurance doesn’t cover us for it. Do check on this – of course if you decide to chance it like many people do, that’s fine, but we only knew of this because of others who told us about it. Our students make their own arrangements. But lots of families, when they do the washing for students, wash once a week and charge £5 for a small bag of clothes. They wash and dry them and use the similar Octopus from Ikea set up that we do, for all our socks and pants….
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Happiness is… three Ikea octopus sock hangers hung up and waiting for action!!! Am waiting up for the washing to end so I can hang them up before bed. I put socks and pants on them as it means we use the tumble dryer less – good for the planet and our pockets! Eventually we will make the utility room a wet room and add hanging rails in the ceilings. But that’s a way off so for now, this kind of works… @the_organised_mum crew inspired this one :)) #ikea #ikeaoctopus #tumbledryer #planet #smallchanges #teamtomm
How much do you earn?
It varies – between £65 per student per week for long term, off peak (not the height of summer) students and around £100 a week for students in the summer months. If you live in Trumpington, the Bell School could be a good place to talk to – I understand that they pay more. And if you’re in North Cambridge, you could look at Cambridge Regional College. A google will bring up lots of places for you to try.
For us, the money is certainly useful but it’s not the be all and end all of the arrangement. We like to have a busy house – our boys are always hanging out with their mates so it’s not really that different for us. We eat the same dinners and live our lives in the same way. Once our boys are at the stage of coming home at midnight, we’ll have hopefully gotten over or adjusted to staying awake until then, checking that they’re ok!
Is there anything else we need to know?
There will be so much to add to this as – I’ll update as i think of it. The most important thing to remember is that you’re in charge of the arrangement. The school provide the students but it’s the students you have the relationships with. They’re the ones who are in your home night and day, so if someone is rude, or doesn’t come home on time, it is totally acceptable for you to say it’s not working and ask the school to find another family for them.
I’ve asked our students to have a think about what they were looking for in a host family and what they think is good / bad to do and how what they think is needed on both sides, to make it a great experience for everyone. I’ll be back with a post on that once they’ve got something I can publish…