What better way to improve your English than living with a host family? As well as experiencing the family and their way of life, it is a great opportunity to practise your communication skills in a friendly and comfortable environment. Families in Britain may range from single parent families, childless couples to the more traditional idea of a family consisting of both parents and children. Whatever family you are with, they will certainly make you feel welcome and happy in their home.
Do not forget, however, that you are their guest and, therefore, it is important to consider the following points:
Communication is the most important thing - If you have difficulties communicating with your family please speak to the School Administrator as soon as possible. Most problems are due to communication problems so make sure the family understand you and you have all your questions answered.
Take the host family’s address and phone number as soon as you arrive. If any of your arrangements change during your stay you can then contact them to keep them informed.
Smoking - If you smoke, please ask the family where you can do this. Do not be surprised if you have to smoke in the garden as some families have a no smoking policy.
Use a Phone - Please ask for permission before using the phone. If anyone is calling you at the house make sure that they call at a suitable time and do not stay talking on the phone for a very long time.
Broadband -Not all families have broadband and those that do may have restrictions on whether you can use it or not, so please ask them. If you can’t use broadband with your host family, you can buy a pay-as-you-go dongle from local phone shops and remember you can also access Wi-Fi at school.
Shower times/bathroom use - Ask when it is suitable to use the family bathroom. It is also important to fully understand how to dispose of sanitary items, once again if in any doubt, ask the family (your toilet facilities may be different in your country).
Television - Always ask when it is appropriate to watch the TV. Some families may welcome you to sit with them, others may prefer that you watch the TV at other times.
Food - English food can be quite different to food in your home country. If you have any particular likes or dislikes, tell your family. Don’t forget, if you prefer vegetarian food, please tell them. Please also remember to remind your family if you have any allergies to food or if you follow a certain food diet.
Cooking - The food is generally prepared by the host family.
Meal Times -Breakfast is around 7.30 am – 8 am and dinner is around 6 pm-7 pm but check times with the family. It is also important to advise your family as soon as possible if you have any changes of plan in the evenings; for example, you are going to the cinema and will not be back until late.
Again, communicate with the family to find out what times the family eat.
Room -Please keep your room clean and tidy and close all windows before you leave your room. Do not forget, your room is your room and the other people in the house expect the same degree of privacy. Please do not enter any other bedrooms on your own.
Bed linen -This will be provided by the family and changed weekly.
Washing & ironing -You are generally responsible for your own washing and ironing. However, ask your family whether they have any washing arrangements. They may be happy to wash your clothes in their washing machine for a small fee.
Valuables -Look after your valuables and money at all times. The school cannot take any responsibility for any loss or damage.
Keys -Your family may give you a key to their home (especially if you go out late at night). If this is the case, do not lose it as you will be asked to pay for a replacement. When you use any of the doors make sure you close and lock them every time.
Windows -Make sure all your windows are closed when you leave the house. If you are worried about security please communicate this to your school and your family before something happens.
BANKS & MONEY
You can change money at most branches as well as the post office or bureau. But you must remember that money changers often give different exchange rates and charge different levels of commission. Try to avoid receiving £50 notes as they are sometimes difficult to change. Visa, MasterCard and other credit cards are accepted in many shops and restaurants. In our opinion, your best option is the Post Office in central locations. They usually offer one of the best rates and are commission free.
Most British banks are open from 09.30 to 17.00 Monday to Friday, and on Saturday mornings. See the School Administrator at reception if you would like to open a bank account. You should first choose which bank you want to open an account with and then bring your documents to the office in the school. The school administrator will help you as much as possible but banks are reluctant to open accounts if you are staying in the UK for less than 6 months.
It is almost impossible for short -stay students to open a bank account – and difficult even for many long-stay students. If you want to open your own account in a bank, you need to take:
Bank reference letter from the school office
Your identification (for example your passport
Tenancy agreement and/or utility bill as proof of your address if you live on your own and not with a host family
When your family send money to your bank account, you need to tell them:
Sort code (six digit number, e.g. 23-99-34)
Account number (seven digit number, e.g. 1437895)
Name and address of your bank in the UK
IBAN number (which the bank can give you)
SAFETY AND EMERGENCY
London, like all towns and cities in Britain, is usually a very safe place to be but, just as in most large towns and cities in the world, it is important to be sensible and to avoid taking any unnecessary risks.
Take care when you are walking at night, especially late on Friday or Saturday nights
Avoid carrying large amounts of money, jewellery or other valuables
Never leave your bags unattended
Remember that in Britain we drive on the left. When you are walking around:
Take special care when crossing the road
Look in both directions
Use pedestrian crossings whenever possible
In the UK it is illegal for people under 18 years old to buy or drink alcohol. If you’re fortunate enough look under 21 years old you may be asked to show ID when buying alcohol. Don’t be offended, many people take it as a compliment!
If you need the police, an ambulance or fire services the emergency telephone number is 999 or 112.
You should already have an emergency number for the school. If not, please ask us for it. Keep the names, addresses and telephone numbers of your school and your accommodation with you at all times and NOT just in your mobile phone. In any emergency, telephone the school and the host family to tell us what is happening and where you are.
If you are ill, ask your host family for the name of their family doctor. If you have a European Health Insurance Card and are here for less than three months you can register with their doctor as a temporary resident. If you are staying here longer than three months, you will need proof of address and identification and you can then register at a doctor’s surgery in the normal way. Please ask at reception for details of local doctor’s surgeries. Alternatively, you can call NHS DIRECT on 0845 46 47 and speak to a nurse or doctor.
If you are a student in the UK for more than six months then NHS hospital treatment is free. You will need a passport, visa and enrolment letter to prove this.
If your country has an agreement with the UK NHS you can receive hospital treatment free if your condition began after arrival in the UK. Countries include: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Yugoslavia.
If you are here for less than six months, and do not come from one of the countries above, you will be charged for treatment. Medical insurance should cover these costs.
For more urgent cases, there is a NHS drop in certain locations.
Treatment of minor infections, coughs, cold and flu-like symptoms. Minor cuts and wounds – dressings and care Stomach ache, indigestion, constipation, vomiting and diarrhoea. Muscle and joint injuries – strains and sprains. Skin complaints – rashes, sunburn and head lice.
WHAT TO DO IN A MEDICAL EMERGENCY
If you need emergency treatment whilst in London you can go to the Accident and Emergency department of the NHS hospitals:
Central - University College Hospital
235 Euston Road NW1 2BU – 0845 155 5000 x 70001
Central -St Thomas’s Hospital
Westminster Bridge Road SE1 7EH – 020 7188 7188
Most dental treatment has to be paid for. However, remember to ask for a receipt from the dentists so you can claim the money back on your holiday insurance.
OTHER USEFUL TELEPHONE NUMBERS
The Samaritans – 0345 909090
Rape Crisis Centre: – 0207 837 1600
Victim Support – 0845 303 0900
National Drugs Helpline – 0800 776600
HIV & AIDS Helpline – 01202 311166