Wednesday 3 October 2012

Who wants to be a host family?

Maggie Paton is one of LSI’s most loved executive host mothers. She recently took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her experience as a homestay.

Maggie at home with students

Originally from the North of England, Maggie moved down to the South nearly 40 years ago.  She started on the road of being a homestay by being asked by the local IBM whether she could take a manager in, this she agreed to and found that she really enjoyed it and it was a great success.  When she moved to Portsmouth, a few years later, she decided to try it again for two years as a homestay for LSI, and nearly 9 years later she is still doing it.

So Maggie how does it work?  “You have to be willing to give, to accept people in your own home.  I always try to make them feel comfortable, feel at home and as though they are part of the family, the way I would like to feel if I was in their position.

“What would I say is the best part of being a host mother? Seeing people from all parts of the world and meeting fantastic people from all walks of life.  I can’t really think of any negatives, maybe having to always plan everything, but otherwise no I really love it. 

“I’ve had students, who have stayed quite a long time, sometimes up to 3 months, and they become part of the family, and you really get to know them. Of course then when they leave, you end up really missing them. You can get really quite attached to them.”

What advice would she give to anyone thinking about becoming a host family?   “Give it a go, try, be open, just relax and enjoy it.  You need, of course, to be quite sociable and enjoy cooking, because that is part of it.”

Do any of the students find it difficult? “Yes! And when they arrive they are actually quite nervous, because in a hotel they don’t have to mix or speak to anyone or join in with a family, so when they first arrive they really don’t quite know what they are doing. It doesn’t matter what level they are in a company, I know they’re nervous, doesn’t matter if they are a CEO …so you’re inviting someone into your home who is not sure, so again I turn it round and think how I would feel, the more welcoming you are the more relaxed they become.”

What advice would you give to any student who was trying to decide whether to stay in a hotel or in a homestay?  “Stay with a host family because you’ll practise your English, you’ll get used to the English lifestyle and you’re immersed into English.  You talk with the host family for an hour at dinner time, if there are two students you are mixing with another nationality, and you are mixing with the host family, which I think is really important.  I think it is as important as the course.  If you go and stay in a hotel you’ll speak English in the day, you’ll go back and not speak to anyone or just communicate a little bit in English”.

 Do you keep in touch with any of your ex students?  “I keep in touch with most of them, I get postcards.  It’s wonderful at New Year and Christmas. I’ve been invited to weddings in Switzerland, to Munich, on the back of a motor bike in Germany, to the Opera in Italy.  Brazil is on my list!  My lovely Italian students have told me I am family and I’ve invited them to stay with me before Christmas to go shopping.  When the Tsunami hit I wrote to every one of my Japanese students to make sure they and their families were okay, So yes I keep in touch with most of them.

“Even if I retire I will carry on, I like the company, I love cooking, I embrace it, I come from a family where the house was always full, when that changed I didn’t like it, so it’s my new family, Yes! I will carry on”

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