If you read my previous article Why We Love Being a Host Family for English Immersion Stays in France perhaps you are considering taking the plunge and opening up your home for English Language Immersion Stays. If so, this practical guide will take you through the key questions, considerations, and requirements for becoming an English-language host in France.
What experience do we have to offer?
Start by considering the kind of experience you are able to offer. If you are currently parents, it may be easier for students to feel ‘at home’ within your family. Having other children around is a great icebreaker!
On the other hand, if your children are now adults and have flown the nest, or you are a couple without children, you may well have plenty of time and energy to devote to an immersive language student. Everyone has their individual life experiences and something to offer young people in an Immersive Language Stay.
Of course, living in France gives you a real insight into language learning yourselves, and it is these shared experiences that really help build trust.
Primarily, ensure that you and your partner like young people and are both committed to the idea of Language Stays. Do not underestimate the undertaking of having someone in your home for a full week and being ‘on call’ and responsible for that young person’s well-being.
Having some understanding and empathy towards the demands of everyday life for young people today is pretty essential, too.
What qualifications do you need?
Some companies do not require any formal qualifications as such, and this is usually reflected, as you would expect, in the levels of remuneration.
Other companies insist on qualified teachers. This could be a Certified Teaching Degree such as a Bachelor of Education, a Post Graduate Teaching Certificate, or simply a “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” TEFL qualification, which is available to do online. It all depends on the particular company’s requirements.
A First Aid certificate or First Aid training could be required and would be a bonus to have, even if it’s not obligatory.
Is your house student-friendly?
The happiness and safety of the students is paramount, so try to look at and assess your home objectively. Could those large, lovely French windows need a window lock? Might the staircase need an extra bannister? Is the garden a secure, safe space? If we have pets, how might they interact with students in the home? These are just some of the questions you might like to reflect on.
Do you have adequate resources? Young people need entertaining in and around the home, and a TV simply is not sufficient. Board games, card games, crafting and outdoor activities on site, such as swingball, football, basketball, rounders, etc, are all helpful and an ideal way for them to pick up everyday vocabulary, too.
An essential element for an English Immersion Stay is a separate, welcoming bedroom for students. Is there an allocated shower or bathroom for their sole use?
Trying to ‘see’ your home from a young person and THEIR parents’ perspective may help.
Preparing for the home visit
As part of your application process, reputable companies will insist on a home visit in order to meet you in person and to verify your home. In reality, this should not be a “grilling”- it should be a positive experience for all involved. However, certain criteria do need to be met, and a follow-up visit should be possible if it is needed. If you have reached the home visit stage, this is normally a really positive sign.
As you would expect, your home does not need to be perfect, but it should be clean and welcoming. Make sure your kitchen and bathrooms have been cleaned and that your clean fridge has a thermometer showing the correct temperature.
You will need a well-stocked and up-to-date First Aid Kit.
It is a good idea to have a list of ‘Emergency Contacts’ in a prominent place within the home for all to see – e.g., fridge door in the kitchen or family notice board – somewhere easily visible.
Also, give some thought to an emergency evacuation plan. In the event of an emergency, would everyone in your house know what to do? Do you have smoke alarms fitted, and are there fire extinguishers?
Having your resources ready or ideas of the resources you would buy is also a great idea – be prepared to talk about what sort of activities you could offer within your home.
Certificates and paperwork – it is advisable to have any required documentation to hand. You should be made aware beforehand of which documents you might need, if any, so prepare a folder.
As with any interview, focus on your strengths and be yourselves. When we had our home visit from Daily English, it was an absolute pleasure, and it really gave us such a positive first impression – we knew we wanted to work for them straight away!
Preparing your host profile and photos
Most companies have a website, and your details are often uploaded for potential customers to browse. Ensure you have an attractive family photograph – for us, this is easier said than done, as our youngest son refuses to pose!!!
If you live in the beautiful Charente, as we do, maybe you could be photographed amongst the blooming sunflowers? If you live near a leisure lake or local attraction, why not go on location for your photoshoot? Just remember: no sunglasses, and dress appropriately. Some companies have a “no swimsuit photographs” rule, too, for obvious reasons!
It might be an idea to start thinking about drafting a brief paragraph or two to go alongside that photograph for potential customers to read. The company should be able to offer examples and guide you with this. Some companies may even write it for you. With other companies, it may not even be required at all, so do check.
Background checks and legalities
You (and any adult in your home coming into contact with the students) will be expected to undergo a police check in France for child protection reasons. You should also be asked for verifiable references too – often from both the UK and from France, depending on the requirements of the company and depending on how long you have lived in France.
You may wish to check with your insurers and the English Immersion Stay company regarding any amendments to insurance policies that may or may not be required. For example, car insurance and home insurance.
Registration and declaration of income
The English Immersion Company you have chosen should be able to give you some outline pointers as to how you might go about registering your income in order to declare it, but this really is your responsibility as it completely is dependent on your own personal financial circumstances. Therefore, it may be prudent to seek specialist advice for your personal financial situation.
Payment should arrive in advance of your student stays by bank transfer. In this way, you can purchase any resources, activity tickets, and food shopping ready for their arrival.
We have hosted English Immersion students very happily for several years now, and if you would like to read about why we love it so much, click here.
In our family, we all feel we have benefitted from this experience, so HAPPY HOSTING!
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