Bringing the world home

Homestay host mother Susan Blunt shares her family’s experience hosting students from all over the world who have come to Brisbane to study English at The University of Queensland’s Institute for Continuing & TESOL Education (ICTE-UQ).

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, fun, you learn things, you are kinder to each other and you start collecting extra family members from all around the world. Hosting homestay students 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 no longer offered. 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.

While I also 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? – 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.

In a practical sense, we are more organised. This 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. Now, dinner is together most nights at the table, devices are put away for 20 to 30 minutes, and we eat and talk together. It has been terrific. The students can practice their English, my children practice considering another language, and table manners and conversation is inclusive – all wonderful life skills. We also learn about how different day-to-day life is at home for our students.

We remain in contact with our students when 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.

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

Just last Sunday after two of my daughters won an AFL Grand Final and posted the news on social media, I received a message from our first homestay student saying “Hi Mum, tell my sisters I am so proud of them.” That melted my heart. How wonderful to think that by inviting a young man who is learning another language to come bravely into our home, eat different food, live 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 or becoming a homestay host visit here

Last updated:
12 December 2016