Hosting International Students... even on Christmas Day!
Pictured: Some of our Malaysian student guests with my daughter (far-right))
The main reason why we host international students is to give friendship and encouragement.
Our first meeting is often at a coffee shop near their university or college. This makes it easier for the student to accept an invitation and to get to know us in a more familiar environment.
Conversation quickly turns to how they are settling in and adjusting to English weather. They will almost certainly be delighted to share about their own family and so starts an exciting journey of cultural exchange: customs, clothes, entertainment, interests, films, and of course food!
For those who know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour our aim is to be of support to them. Typically students arriving from overseas can be disappointed about how secular our English society is. To openly discuss this and other issues can be quietly reassuring and helpful to them. And for those without faith in Jesus we are eager to sensitively share the gospel. A New Testament or Bible in their own language is often welcomed, with guidance about how they might start to read it.
Weekends are often the most convenient times to share home life with international students. It is a great way to begin to appreciate life in each other’s countries. Cuisine is a popular topic. Students love to help prepare meals or experience some traditional English baking. Giving them the chance to cook their own food has led to some delicious meals. Such occasions give rise to plenty of laughter.
From our own children’s experiences we know how stressful student life can be at times and although international students will have a good grasp of English their fluency will vary. For some this will add to their worries about coping within an unfamiliar culture, thousands of miles from home. Our friendship and understanding can be important to them: spending time chatting or simply chilling out at our home can offer a vital chance for them to gain in confidence and relax.
Visits have ranged from an afternoon to staying over for Christmas; it all depends on one’s situation. Becoming part of the family for Christmas involves joining in with church family too and this raises further conversations about traditions and what we believe.
One year a visit over Christmas was spontaneously extended until after New Year which involved travelling some distance and staying away with family – most memorable and delightful.
It is not unusual for students to keep in touch long after they have completed their studies and returned home.
We cherish the times we can host international students, and would recommend hosting to others.
David and Joan Wiltshire, Friends International Hosts in Gosport