Families offer international students a home away from home
International students and the Wellington families hosting them are making the most of the experience
The influx of international students wanting to study in Wellington means schools are constantly on the lookout for host families to provide them with a nurturing and safe environment.
Students thrive in a caring environment
It’s an experience host family Bill and Elsa Bower recommend, and they should know – they’ve been hosting Wellington High School students for 30 years now.
The Bower residence has been home for Carren Yan, of China, for almost three years. And they’ve recently taken in a second student, Trang Nguyen, of Vietnam.
“Elsa and myself offer them a safe and easygoing environment. We gently break them into the Kiwi way of doing things, so nothing becomes too hard for them,” says Bill.
“It’s great to see them grow and develop as they adjust to life in a different culture. There’s laughter on an almost daily basis, it keeps us in touch with young people, and they bring life into the house.”
Both Carren, year 12, and Trang, year 10, say the Bowers give them the feeling of home.
“I have a good relationship with my family,” says Carren, “they often cook me good food, take me out to eat barbecues and other recreational activities in summer.”
Trang loves that the Bowers are kind and caring and that she feels safe.
“They are strict about important things but otherwise relaxed,” she says, “and I love that my room is big and feels comfortable.”
Host family empowers students
Meanwhile, the Aranyi family first put their hand up to host a student when their daughter was at Wellington East Girls’ College five years ago. They’ve since hosted students from their two boys’ school, Rongotai College, and love that Wellington is a great city to showcase the New Zealand experience.
“There are beaches, rivers, hills, walkways, museums, Parliament, galleries, the zoo, trains, planes and buses, cable car, scooters, malls, events and pools – it makes exploring easy,” says Melody.
The family is currently hosting German year 12 student Constantin Neugebauer and are still in regular touch with previous students from Berlin, Tokyo and Bangkok.
“We are a family who loves and cares for everyone who is here. We believe in good communication, support and also empowering them to make their own decisions and be self-sufficient,” says Melody.
“It’s also important to realise these students have left their homes, families and friends and have travelled a long way to be here – there’s going to be a lot of new things for them to learn, including the language.”
Their 16-year-old student Constantin has found himself right at home.
"I really like being with my host family because they are very friendly, loving and have taken me straight into their hearts.
"Kiwis have an open and very friendly culture that welcomes everyone, but what I have learned so far during my stay is that you have to get involved with new things and want to explore new things to make the most of this experience."
Students are 'good company'
Bernard Robbins and Susan Yeoh have been hosting students for more than two decades and have had Wellington Girls’ College, year 13 student Rebecca Guo, of China, under their wings for two years now.
“We originally started hosting to help out the school, and we’ve continued ever since because we enjoy the company – they’re not hard work, they’re just good company,” says Susan.
Their student Rebecca loves her life in Wellington and the fact that the couple treats her like family.
“I feel like they are actually my parents – Susan tells me important stuff about living. I have a really good relationship with ‘mum and dad’, they take care of me as their own child!
“I really enjoy my life in Wellington, I am thankful to everyone who has helped me during my high school life here, they’ve given me so much support.”