Welcoming an international student into your home

Host families provide a home away from home where
a student can go during school breaks.

How we support host families


What to expect when hosting

When international students come to the UK for boarding school, they will stay at school during term time. However, there are a few times during the year when they are not in school and might not be able to fly home such as half term, end of term holidays or special weekends during the year called exeats or leave weekends.

These are the times when international students go to their homestay family.

A host family is different than a guardian; the latter acts more like a helper and a problem solver whereas hosts provide a warm and loving atmosphere to look after students when they aren't at school.

Hosting may be a new experience for both you and the international student we pair you up with. It's important to be clear that you're not running a hotel. Rather than being treated as a guest, your student will appreciate being treated as one of your family.

What are my responsibilities as a host family?

A host family offers a warm, friendly welcome and a safe, caring environment where an international student can stay and expect to be treated as part of the family during their time away from school.

Hosts become as involved as they are able to with their student's important school events including possibly attending their annual Parents’ Meeting.

Student winning prize

We help you to be a great host

Academic Families offers a support system built on empathy, peace of mind, guidance and help with navigating cultural differences.

We understand that taking an international student into your home is a big responsibility, and we work hard to make sure both the host family and the student have a fantastic experience.

Our host families are our valued and trusted partners and we provide:

  • 24/7 support.
  • transportation arrangements like airport pickups and transport to and from your home.
  • training events to share knowledge, stories and meet other hosts.

When can I expect to host a student?

Academic Families' students are all full boarders, so they're based at their school most of the time during term.

Some schools close their boarding houses for an exeat weekend during the year, usually at the end of:

  • September,
  • November,
  • January,
  • March,
  • and possibly in May.

We also offer half term trips three times a year, so your student might only stay with you on an occasional day or overnight.

At other times you might be asked to host your student before or after their home flight.

The majority of foreign students return home over Christmas, Easter and summer breaks.

How long will a student stay with us?

International students usually spend up to four weekends a year at a homestay while they are on leave from boarding school.

We like to give our students as much continuity and security as possible, which in turn helps them to develop a positive relationship with their host family.

Ideally, we hope that our hosting agreement with you will be for a minimum of one year, but we understand that life and plans can sometimes change. If they do, just remember to let us know with as much advance warning as possible, then we can minimise any impact on your student and make alternative arrangements.

Typically, international students stay with their host over a couple of weekend "exeats" each term. They may also stay an occasional night before or after travelling home depending on their flights. A few students may want to stay at half term by special arrangement only. Hosts can't always commit to every date but don't worry - that's our responsibility to match students with another host for those dates.

Some of our hosts prefer to provide ad hoc emergency homestays, welcoming a student whenever a need arises. Others prefer to welcome an international student at set times.

Academic Families likes to plan for a full school year, so we'll note your preference and we will match you accordingly.

What do we do during holidays?

School trips

If an international student stays in the UK for half term, then they have a few options:

What do we do if something goes wrong?

Don't panic! As guardian, Academic Families has delegated parental responsibility of the student you are hosting, so we are the first point of contact in all emergencies. In all our years of operating, we have never found a problem we couldn't solve!

If your student requires short-notice hosting and you are unavailable, we will arrange for another host to accommodate them. Likewise, we may ask you to host another student at short notice.

If you have any concerns about the wellbeing of your student, please let us know so we can follow up appropriately.

What happens after a student graduates?

It's fairly common for students and host families to develop a close bond.

Most of our host families maintain their strong relationships with the international students they host when they leave school and go on to university.

Davina's story is a great example...

Our host Davina welcomed in Mike while he went to a nearby boarding school. They formed a lasting bond.

Mike performed well at school, went on to university and finally returned home. Through the years, he often remembered Davina and the life skills she taught him - especially cooking and ironing!

Many Christmas cards and years later, Mike returned with his wife to the UK on their honeymoon. His new wife wanted to thank Davina for making Mike the man he is today.

Davina was delighted to host Mike one more time and meet his new bride. They had lots to remember, catch up on and laugh about.

Hosting is more than a weekend - it's building relationships for life.

host teaching student how to make drop scones

Want to be a host family?

Schools placement

We look after students from over 40 countries and we work with dozens of families all across the UK.

We are always on the lookout for families who can provide a safe, welcoming environment for an international student.

We decided to become hosts because we like young people and see hosting as an extension of our traveling. Also, we like to learn about other cultures, maybe cultures of countries that we haven’t come across or travelled to. It has really been an eye opener on many occasions and it keeps us going!

Our own daughters went to boarding school and it's been really nice for us to think that we can help international students to settle into their life here. We're always interested what they want to do or if they want to learn anything from us. We play games, do a bit of cooking and we chat to make them feel relaxed.

We’ve been host to quite a number of students from all over the world. You do wonder if you're going to have any difficulties with their culture or their food or what they like to do, however, I think we've been very pleasantly surprised and in actual fact everything works out beautifully.

Morag & Jim, host family in England

How do host families help international students?

Many of our host families have been caring for international students for more than 10 years, going the extra mile to ensure all our students feel at home throughout their school years in the UK.

Safety and security

Advice and guidance

Emotional support

Develop social skills

Practice languages skills with native English speakers

Navigate cultural differences

From our blog

How do you match students and host families?

It’s a question we get asked a lot – by parents, students and hosts! We understand the importance of getting a match that works well

How to be a great host family for an international student

Preparing to welcome an international Boarding School student into your home is an exciting time. You’ll be playing an important role in helping an international
Half term trips

Discover Dubai or London or Best of UK Tour
October Half-Term

Ski in Europe
February Half-Term

Adventure in Greece
May Half-Term

Quality you can trust

Academic Families has personal and professional experience with boarding schools. Many of our staff attended boarding schools themselves when they were young or have worked in them. We have all lived overseas and most of us are mothers, so we understand how important it is to find the very best education for every child no matter where that might be in the world.

From our headquarters in Edinburgh to our local staff across the UK, our team regularly visits hundreds of British schools. Our excellent knowledge of the UK education system, accreditation by the Boarding School Association (BSA) and certification from the British Council means we understand UK boarding education from the inside and out, and know how to ensure the best education for each child.

In addition, our guardianship service has been Gold accredited by AEGIS (the Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students) since 2016 and also by the BSA, so you know, with Academic Families, you're guaranteed to have the best local support anywhere in the UK.

Moreover, our team are trained MHFA Mental Health First Aiders so we are qualified to support our students with any wellbeing and mental health concerns.


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