We’d been considering this for a while, but a leaflet posted through the door earlier this year prompted us to start offering accommodation to foreign students.
I studied French and some of my formative experiences growing up included staying in private homes while visiting France on exchanges and as a paying guest. It gave me an insight into the culture of the country and, in my case, helped fuel my love of the place, leading to my degree and a career in wine.
The leaflet we received was from Whetstone-based Teresa Cole-Robson who arranges host families for Reichardt, a German organisation that runs educational trips to the UK for teenage school groups. As parents of just one child (who receives a lot of attention) and having a spare bedroom, we decided to inquire. We’ve previously had a Monday to Friday lodger which worked well, so we’ve had experience sharing our home.
Teresa visited the house to view the accommodation and have a chat about what’s involved. Christian Reichardt is keen to work with families that are prepared to spend time having dinner and talking to the students in the evening as they are here to learn and practice their English within a host family setting. The students have a packed itinerary and are out and about all day (including weekends).
The rates of pay are quite modest at £17 per student per night or £120 per student per week for bed, breakfast and evening meal and two or more students to be accommodated together. There are no packed lunches involved. The average age range is approximately 14 to 15 years and they stay about five nights. (If you’re looking for a more lucrative return for your spareroom Airbnb might be a better option.)
On the first day the party arrives in a big double-decker coach and is dropped off at the BP garage near the Barnet Everyman at 6.30 to 7.00pm. This is where they depart early on the final day with their luggage. Occasionally the meeting point is Church House in High Barnet. Each morning after breakfast the students make their own way to a designated meeting point – for ours this was McDonalds on the High Street, just a short walk from our home. At the end of the stay payment is promptly made directly into your account on the day of departure.
So far we’ve had two lots of students staying. Close friends are accommodated together, so the atmosphere is relaxed and warm. In April we hosted two impeccably behaved boys and in July four lively girls who constantly kept our daughter entertained – for her it was like suddenly having big sisters. What’s more, in both cases their level of English put us to shame and it was fascinating learning more about Germany, a country we have limited experience of. Our guests have been delightful and a pleasure to have around – and highlights of our daughter’s year.
It’s a bit like temporarily running a b&b but you can encourage your guests to help clear up and give a hand (but they generally don’t need any prompting). Unusually two of the girls had dietary issues (one was coeliac and the other lactose intolerant). I was reimbursed for additional food expenses and, as I like cooking, I don’t mind a culinary challenge. Big tip: it’s well worth planning your menus in advance and stocking up before they arrive. From then on it should be pretty straightforward and you can tweak things as you go. We also kept a small English/German dictionary handy to help with conversations (embarrassingly our German is almost non-existent). One evening the boys met friends in the park for a game of football before dinner, but otherwise we sat around chatting and our daughter was thrilled to have so much company.
Reichardt is always looking for host families based in the area, especially Barnet, Whetstone or Finchley. If you are interested please contact Teresa Cole-Robson on 020 8368 5753 or firstname.lastname@example.org.