Retirement beckons after 10 years

Sue and her husband Kit have taken the difficult decision to retire from hosting after ten years. They chatted to EIL recently about their experiences with HOST UK and shared a few highlights.

When did you first start hosting with HOST UK?

SUE: I joined the board of directors of HOST UK in 2013 as treasurer and my husband got very enthusiastic about the idea and suggested we try hosting ourselves. We’ve had an absolutely fabulous time, but we have not hosted since Covid.

How many students have you hosted over the years?

SUE: We’ve never had just one student, always at least two. Lots of Chinese and Americans and even a student from Bhutan. Possibly two visits per year over ten years, so about 30-40 students in total.

Always from the same university?

SUE: Not always, some who were but often complete strangers. One Christmas we had two Chinese students who met for the first time at Kings Cross station before they travelled to us!

Have you offered a lot of Festive Stays?

SUE: Yes, we liked to do that because our children live busy lives and we often don’t see them until after Christmas so it suits us very nicely. We try to make it an old-fashioned traditional Christmas with crackers, which is a particularly British thing, and the flaming of the pudding at the table. We’ve also taken some students to carol singing, which can be amusing.

You live in Hitchin in Hertfordshire, are there any local attractions that you enjoy showing your guests?

SUE: We always take students to the Hitchin British Schools Museum, a unique collection of school rooms from 1810 to the Second World War. It has a galleried classroom, designed by Joseph Lancaster, allowing the master to teach up to 300 boys! The room is sloped with the master positioned at the bottom and able to see all the boys. The idea spread throughout the world, but Hitchin is the only remaining example left.

We also enjoy taking our guests to see the seasonal lavender fields around Hitchin and I think we may be responsible for the spread of lavender in China as the students loved seeing the fields! We had a Chinese couple stay with us on a Chevening Scholarship with their 5 year old daughter and the little girl loved it so much she cried when it was time to leave our house. We’ve hosted a number of Chevening students with children.

We always take our students for a walk around the village to the park and one student had never seen a swing before and we’ve hosted students at Easter and enjoyed making pancakes with them.

What are your lasting impressions of the hosting experience?

SUE: We have thoroughly enjoyed all of the students we have met. The quieter ones are more difficult because it’s difficult to gauge if they are having a good time but nobody has refused to do things or been unhappy. Cooking meals together can be a great experience, we had a Chinese couple who cooked us a very nice meal while I showed their daughter how to sew.

What would be your number one piece of advice for new hosts?

SUE: Keep it simple and be relaxed. Don’t try to cram too much into the weekend. Many students are from big cities so simple things such as a countryside walk is good for them.