Marie and Phil Macquet
‘I always buy a slab of New Zealand chocolate and place it on their pillow with a welcome card.’
Marie and her husband Phil have hosted approximately 12-15 homestay students in the past ten years. The students have come from a variety of countries including China, Korea, Japan, the Netherlands and the USA.
When her children left home, Marie really missed them, so chose to have homestays for the additional company and really enjoys the diversity they bring to the home, in particular watching them experience the fun of learning and hearing all about their student’s home country, as well as the food and culture.
To make their homestays feel welcome, Marie and Phil will often bring out an atlas of the world and get their host student to show them where they are from and encourage them to talk about their life there.
‘I always buy a slab of New Zealand chocolate and place it on their pillow with a welcome card,’ Marie says.
‘I love it when they walk my dogs with me and I enjoy showing them how to prepare a meal - if they want to learn how to do this, they seem to really like it!’ On Saturdays, Marie asks the students to be available to clean their rooms, change the bed linen and hang out the washing with her. I will sometimes follow this up with breakfast at Deans Bush Market.’
When asked about what is the biggest challenge that a host family faces when a student first comes to stay, Marie comments ‘we are always concerned about communication, especially if their English is weak. I talk to them as much as possible, especially in the kitchen, while cleaning and folding the washing, and when out walking - always noticing if they are unhappy.
‘We all eat dinner together most nights and this is good general conversation time for us all. I remind them gently that this is a homestay and we treat them as we would like our own children to be treated in another country.
‘For someone considering hosting a homestay student, Marie advises the host family to encourage the students to be part of their home and to come out of their rooms and join in family conversations. ‘We also ask them to let us know if something is worrying them, so that we can help them solve any problem that is brewing.
‘We forge lifelong relationships with these girls and have even been hosted in hotels in China by one of the families, as a thank you after a student stayed with us for four years. Many come back later in life with family to see us too. Generally, this is a very rewarding experience.’