Student Stories

The strange story of a shirt

Renyang and Min new year 2015.jpg

This is Renyang Liu's story of the strange way in which HOST came to his rescue just before he went to spend New Year with hosts in Cornwall.

It was on a Sunday afternoon just before the end of the year., I took a train from Reading to Bournville in Birmingham to attend an interview. The dress code for that interview was formal so that I took my suit in the suitcase. However when I arrived at hotel I found I forgot to take a shirt with me. All the shops was closed, also there would be not enough time to buy a shirt on Monday. I asked the reception for help but got nothing. Then I met the chef in the hotel, who would like to offer me his shirt. Unluckily it was too large for me.

Then I came up with that the other student who will go to host together with me was studying in University of Birmingham. I had got in touch with him several days before, so I made a phone call to him to ask does he have a shirt and does he live far away from Bournville. Luckily he has a shirt, which turned out to fit well for me. Also where he lives was near Bournville. So I took a train and found him to take the shirt and we had a short talk. The feeling was wonderful as I got unexpected help when I almost lost all my hope.

The visit at New Year was much more enjoyable than I expected. I not only learned how British people celebrate the new year, but also enhanced lots of knowledge on traditional skills. Like gardening and how to make pasty, scone. What's more, the host is knowledgeable so that there was a lot of knowledge and opinion exchange on current affairs and the history. Also it's a good chance to relax myself.

Thanks HOST so that I can have the invaluable experience and made new good friends.





More than I expected

Takiyah Mitchell from the USA enjoyed cooking and eating with her host

I especially loved how welcoming Sylvia and Tony were towards us. Sylvia taught us how to make homemade scones from scratch, and they prepared a lovely traditional Sunday joint dinner. The whole trip was honestly unforgettable. The hospitality was great, and I didn't expect to learn so much about British culture and customs that I wouldn't have been able to get just learning about it on my own.

HOST UK is a program that I hope will be around for a long time to come. It provides an invaluable experience to foreign students. The hosts we were matched up with did everything in their power to provide us with a genuine British way of living that we enjoyed to the fullest.


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A precious gift

A dream come true for Md. Mahbubur Rahman Khan of Bangladesh

This visit fulfilled my long desire to see the countryside of England. One interesting part was cooking traditional food (Biriyani) from my country. The couple who hosted me were very nice and lovely people. I felt like we had been friends for a lifetime, and I felt I was home away from home.

I had lots of prizes and gifts in my lifetime. But honestly, the most precious gift that I got is to get the chance to meet the lovely people around the country. It totally changed my mind about the lifestyle of British people.


How to say thank you

Thank you messages are very important to our hosts. They reassure them that they have given their student guest a good experience.

This is the lovely thank you letter sent by Ben Eyeki, a student from Nigeria, to his hosts in Dorset.

I am writing to inform you that I arrived back at University of Sussex safely.

I want to use this opportunity to, once again, thank you very sincerely for the hospitality you extended to me. When I was coming to Hilfield, I had some doubts and expectations. I must say that you didn't only meet my expectations but, in fact, surpassed it. It is amazing how a group of people can be so warm and loving in a world where hatred and brutality is the trend. Everybody made me feel wanted. I was even more pleased with the fact that as the only black man in your midst, you received me with both hands and made me completely happy to be with you. I cannot forget my time there.

As I return to my school, I return with a feeling of fulfilment and relief that Christmas away from home can also be fun. Indeed, home is where one makes it and I found home at Hilfield. God bless you all so much for your warm reception!

Learning about locks

Eunice describes some of the new experiences she enjoyed when she went on a HOST visit with her friend Summer.

It has been one month since I went to the Gollands’ house. Although I have now returned to China, the two-day visit is still vivid in my mind because it includes so many first experiences in my life. This is the first time for me to visit a private house in England. It is decent and cosy house with a long history. The big garden behind the house also surprised us because it seemed like a small park with so many fruits and vegetables. The home-grown food looks lovely and tastes much better than any food I had in England.

After we enjoyed the afternoon tea in the garden, Mr and Mrs Golland drove us to a local pub. I thought the pub is the place for people to meet the strangers, but actually most people there knows each other. They all live in the neighbourhood and gathered there to exchange some information in their life.

Next morning, we went to have a narrow boat trip in canals. Before we go, Mrs Golland wrote us an email about the trip and suggested us to be prepared for the “work on the locks”. To be honest, I did not pay any attention to this. However, after we set off, I was surprised by the amount of exercise for the locks on the canals. It is totally different from the boat trips in Camden market or in Cambridge. We have to jump on and off the boat to rotate the pedals and push the gate to let the waters in and out the locks. Besides, it is not an easy job to drive the narrow boat. It is different from driving a car. The boat is quite long and the directions are opposite when you control at the rear of the boat. Anyway, I found driving the narrow boat in canals is a good exercise for your body and mind.  

As a guest to the home visit, I felt really proud and honoured. The memorable experience is the most worthy thing to do in England as an international student. In the end, I wish to give my most sincere thanks to my host couple—Mr and Mrs Golland. Wish you good health and happy life forever!

A student from Iraq has a day visit

Ghassan Jawad spent an unforgettable day with his hosts

I really did not think I would like this experience this much!! It was one day full of wonderful, warm and kind moments. The most special experience is to know how some people - total strangers from a different culture at first - can give someone, after a few hours, such a great feeling that he would never get anywhere but at home. Thank you for a day I will never forget.

I know that some people have this 'fear' of interacting with British people, and think that they have a superior view about other cultures. Well, I believe that you will change your mind when you participate in this program (I know I did!), because when you get to know them, and let them know you, you will find that cultural differences are nothing if people have genuine intention to understand each other.

Crazy, man!

Daniel Huang from the USA met a true British eccentric

My first time communicating with Alan, he introduced himself as 'a retired academic who may seem slightly eccentric to an American'. I knew then that I was bound for an interesting experience.

On our way to his house from the train station, Alan suddenly leapt onto the street and began flapping his hands wildly at a passing car. Naturally, I asked him what that was about. He explained that it was past dusk and the car’s headlights were off, he was signaling to the driver to turn them on.

Alan had a whole itinerary planned out. We toured the little English town, making a visit to some interesting sites. Then, we drove up to Heacham which had a nice beach and the historical significance of being Pocahantas’ home after she moved to England.

Next, we visited Castle Acre, a plot of land with a 900 year-old castle. Alan asked me if I played Frisbee. I said I dabbled. In one swift motion, he pulled out a massive disk from the inside of his jacket. I was speechless. Some Frisbee-throwing ensued in the castle grounds. Afterwards, we drove by Sandringham Estate, one of the Queen’s holiday homes.

That night Alan invited some of his neighbors over. There was good red wine, a  good selection of biscuits and cake, and some real human connections.

On our way back to the train station Alan showed me his proudest contribution to the local community. In a little side street was a sign that said, 'Devil’s Alley'. Alan pointed to the apostrophe, beaming. 'I checked the historical records at the Town Hall - it’s supposed to be Devil’s Alley, with an apostrophe. So they put it in.'

It had been a great weekend!


A busy weekend

Israel Eweka is from Nigeria, and studying for a Masters in French at Reading University. He spent an action-packed July weekend with hosts in Devon. Israel writes:

My visit was wonderful. Peter and Linda received me at Exeter Central train station and we drove to their beautiful home on the edge of Dartmoor After some refreshments, they showed me around their village.

On Saturday, we travelled to Totnes where we visited the reconstructed Elizabethan castle. We later ferried across River Dart down to Dartmouth, where we walked around the hilly quarters and along the coastline.

On Sunday morning, we attended the Anglican Holy Communion Service at the ancient village church where great French warlords were buried in the early 19th Century. On our way back, we viewed an exhibition of paintings and photographs in the village hall.  Upon my request, we went for a drive to see the legendary Tintagel, home of King Arthur and a part of the plot for the famous medieval legend of Tristan and Yseult. Finally, we drove across the Dartmoor National Park to view the vast expanse of land generously adorned with greenery and stones, where ponies, sheep and cows are healthily pastured. 

All these trips were beside the great food, drinks and fruits to which I was treated, as well as historical lessons I received from my hosts. We played Scrabble, watched football, watched a documentary film on Arthurian birthplace, went to restaurants and took photographs. The hosts were far too kind to me and played a significant role in my life within three days. I wish I could do this again.

Many thanks to HOST and the University of Reading for such an impactful initiative. I also wish to express my profound gratitude to Peter and Linda for their hospitality, generosity, philanthropy and patriotism.