In the final part of a special series on our London homestay hosts we meet the Hans family, who started hosting international students with Hampstead School of English four years ago. Mr and Mrs Hans moved to the UK from Pakistan nearly 20 years ago, bringing up their three children here. In this interview we learn more about life in their home, and their advice and recommendations for homestay students:
Helene: Why did you choose to become homestay hosts for international students? And what do you like about the experience?
Mr Hans: We had one room available when we first became homestay hosts and we did not want to advertise it to the public as our children were very young at the time, so working with Hampstead School of English was an ideal option for us. We also liked the school because of the variety of different nationalities and the proximity to our home.
Mrs Hans: We wanted our children to grow up mingling with different nationalities and learning about new cultures, to help build their confidence. Our children enjoy meeting students from other countries; it allows them to get a different view of the world. Most of our students have become friends with the children, often playing together or baking cakes. I remember my eldest daughter and an Italian student baking a cake for Mother’s Day. It was such a communal effort and so moving to see! But the most rewarding part of hosting for us is when we receive emails and telephone calls from students who have left, it is lovely to hear from them and be remembered.
Helene: Can you describe a typical day in your home?
Mr Hans: Weekday mornings are very busy! The children, Daniella, Gabriella and Michael, wake up at 07:00 and get ready for school. We all have breakfast together: normally a bowl of cereal and coffee, and we sit around the table and talk about our plans for the day. I then take the children to school while my wife stays behind to take care of the chores before going to the gym.
Mrs Hans: The children usually come home at around 15:30 and I’ll start cooking dinner at about 17:30. We usually sit down and eat together at about 18:30. Then the children go to bed and we have some time to sit and speak with the students in the evening. We talk about our days and what the students did at school, and then the students are invited to watch TV or listen to music with us. Our favourite TV programmes are Mr Selfridge, Breaking Bad and Eastenders!
Helene: What do you do on weekends?
Mr Hans: We like to go to church on the weekend, especially Sunday mornings. We always invite the students along if they wish. Afterwards we’ll normally relax at home and watch a movie or play board games.
Helene: What do you like to do in your free time?
Mrs Hans: I like to go shopping in my spare time, or go out and meet with friends. I often go to the gym as well.
Mr Hans: In my spare time I like listening to music. My favourite band is The Beatles, I love the album ‘Abbey Road’ and the song ‘Come Together’.
Helene: What is your favorite food?
Mr Hans: We enjoy eating Chinese food, Indian dishes, and of course, fish and chips!
Helene: Have you ever travelled overseas?
Mr Hans: I travelled to Italy many years ago, and we’re currently planning a trip to Chicago and San Francisco. But our ideal holiday is with the family at Butlin’s family resort – there’s a great choice of restaurants and loads of activities for children.
Helene: What is your favourite place in London, and where would you recommend that students visit?
Mrs Hans: We both love visiting the centre of London. I like Oxford Street because it’s busy and there’s always an event of some sort going on.
Mr Hans: We often take the kids to one of the parks. I love London’s parks, especially Regent’s Park where we normally go on a family boat ride on the Serpentine. We would usually recommend visiting London’s free museums, such as the National History Museum, or going to the Harry Potter studios.
Helene: What advice would you give to students thinking about staying with a homestay host?
Mr Hans: We would say that it’s important to always respect the family rules, and if you are unhappy in your home you must speak to your host. Most issues are solved through discussion and mutual understanding.
HOW CAN I BECOME A HOMESTAY HOST? Contact us to find out more.
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Photography by alefilizzola.