Homestay host grateful for her international student whānau
Being a homestay host to international students opened a rewarding world of international connection for single West Auckland mum Anne Gilchrist.
Over a six-year period, Anne hosted 20 homestay students from all corners of the world and says she has remained in contact with a number of them.
Anne started hosting students when her son Jonas was just a baby. Now seven, Jonas has picked up the basics of Mandarin, Japanese, and Portuguese, and is relaxed with new arrivals in his life.
“He’s great at welcoming people and he’s very interested in languages. He might even go on to study language when he’s older,” she says.
Instead of a life which could, at times, have felt isolating as a mum bringing up a child on her own, Anne says her house was always a busy place. She loved the involvement the students had in her son’s life and the excitement they shared in his achievements and milestones.
“It was really an amazing experience for all of us.”
Rewarding to share cultural experiences
“There were times we shared the cooking, and some of the students taught me how to prepare meals they enjoyed in their culture.
Anne says she would show the students around Auckland, often taking them for day trips to Piha and sometimes to her father’s place in Whitianga for a classic Kiwi BBQ.
“It was important to me to show them New Zealand and our culture. They joined in family events and felt a sense of belonging.”
Anne has hosted students from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Germany, and experienced the many surprising ways in which they were enriched by each other’s cultures.
“I remember sitting on the beach with King, who was from China. He asked why people were smiling at him. I said that in New Zealand we tend to smile at each other and chat to people we don’t necessarily know. He said that didn’t happen in China and it was something he really enjoyed about New Zealand.”
Homestay experience broadened horizons
Now able to afford her own home, Anne says her experience as a homestay host opened her mind to accepting flatmates from a range of nationalities.
“We love having the mix of cultures in the house. I don’t think this would have happened if we hadn’t had the homestay students. I just feel grateful to have hosted them and think of them as extended whānau.”