Don’t know where to stay? Normal student accommodation too expensive? Then book yourself with a host family!
So… what exactly is a homestay?
Its a great chance to have a “home to home” feeling all around the world. You will be booked into a private family home and the family will take care of you. They are your ‘host’ during your stay. Staying in a home at your destination will allow you to really get to know how locals live their life. Maybe they have children or it may be that the family has a dog, a ferret, a hamster or even other students. Whether you plan a long or a short trip a homestay is an ideal way to get yourself immersed in British culture and way of living. It’s a unique experience you won’t get if you stay at a hotel or student halls.
The host family will cook their usual food, they live their life as they do every other day and you’ll be a part of it.
Usually you have a private room, which gets cleaned by your host once a week and there is a bathroom you can use. Plus your laundry will be done, lucky you! Some homestays are based in central locations but others are located in a more rustic and rural areas. It depends what you prefer, you decide.
From personal experience the hosts make you feel very welcome and make it as enjoyable as possible for you. Nonetheless, you are living with people you haven’t met before and you are speaking in a language that is not your own, so this may be a challenge sometimes but of course you will get into it. My advice? Just keep an open mind to people and new cultures. I’m sure it will be exciting and you won’t regret your decision as your language skills will improve dramatically for making this decision
However, below are four things that we know may be a bit of a shock to some students, so it’s worth getting you aware of certain misconceptions/ issues that may arise if you choose to live with a host-family.
- The British eat terrible Food?
This is a common misconception. It is true that the Brits do like their ready-made meals and pasta bakes as many of them have a hectic lifestyle but they also like their homemade dishes too! Like a good traditional Sunday Roast or a cottage pie! At the end of this blog post, I will include three traditional recipes that you may be lucky enough to try while you stay with a local family and even try making it yourself back home for your own family.
- Early Dinner
It is very common for a British family to serve up dinner as early as 5:30/ 6pm. Some students are quite surprised when this happens because dinner is usually served up much later in most meditarranean countries. This is because the family may have young children who need to be in bed early ready for school the following day, or the adults of the family may also have to be in bed early to start work the next day. This isn’t always the case for the Brits as some do like having their dinner at a slightly later time. But just in case, your host-family are early-diners then be sure to keep some snacks in your room for midnight feasting.
- Here’s your lunch
It may be that your homestay includes lunch! Because the Brits have quite a busy day, they usually only have a very small lunch compared to other European countries. In the UK, people only take an hour break for lunch but in other places in Europe, like Spain, it is common to have around 3 hours for you to go back home, eat your lunch and take a nap. Nope, no time in the working day to that in the UK so an hour is all you get at most – so a small lunch it is. You will be provided with a packed lunch most of the time, which will most probably contain a sandwich, some crisps/ chocolate bar with a piece of fruit. Totally different to what most students are accustomed to in their home countries.
- Brrrr … it’s cold!
Yes, it can get pretty cold in the UK over the winter months, so make sure you are fully equipped for the outside weather. However, what you may not be expecting how cold some family homes can get in the evenings/ mornings. Getting out of bed in the mornings in the winter is difficult for everyone during the winter months. Some host-families will have their heating on a timer to come on at specific times throughout the day but others may try to just put the heating on for a couple of hours per day and brace the cold just to save some money at the end of the month. This makes students who are accustomed to warmer climates feel like they are freezing to death, so it might be an idea to invest in some cosy, thick socks and some thick woollen jumpers during your time in the UK. Another good way to cope with the cold is to buy some hand-warmers and have a trusty hot water bottle warm up your bed before you get into it! If this isn’t enough, do not be afraid to have a chat to your Host-family to see if they can make some changes for you like putting the heaters on at particular times.
Their may be other stuff that you may consider unusual but this shouldn’t stop you from considering staying with a host-family. Usually a host-family will take a lot of pressure off students, things like worrying about doing your laundry and doing the weekly/monthly food shopping. These are things you won’t have to worry about and you will feel like you are part of a family, which is a great start for those students who are worried about going solo in an unfamiliar country. And as promised below you will find the recipes to some of the tasty food you may come across during your time in the UK, especially if you’re with a local family:
A Toad in the hole!
It is a delicious dish that is made out of Yorkshire pudding and sausages. Mmm… very tasty! If you don’t get the chance to eat this dish while you are staying with your host family you can cook it by yourself at home to spoil your family in your country when you get back. They will be amazed!
8 large sausages
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 large red onions, peeled and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
2 knobs of butter
6 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 level tbsp. vegetable stock powder or 1 vegetable stock cube.
For the batter
115g plain flour
Pinch of salt
- Mix the batter ingredients together and put to one side.
- Take an appropriately-sized baking tin (the thinner the better) and put 1 cm/just under ½ inch of sunflower oil into it. Place this on the middle shelf of your oven at its highest setting (240º–250ºC/475ºF/gas 9), and put a larger tray underneath it to catch any oil that overflows while cooking.
- When the oil is very hot, add your sausages. Keep your eye on them and allow them to colour until lightly golden.
- At this point, carefully take the tin out of the oven and pour your Toad in the Whole batter mix over the sausages. Throw a couple of sprigs of rosemary into the batter. Put the tin back in the oven, and don’t open it for at least 20 minutes – Yorkshire puddings can be a bit temperamental when rising, so only remove from the oven once it’s golden and crisp.
- For the onion gravy, fry your onions and garlic in the butter on medium heat for about five minutes until they go sweet and translucent. Throw in a little thyme or rosemary if you like. Add the balsamic vinegar and allow it to cook down by half. Add a stock cube or powder and a little water, and let it simmer.
- Once the gravy is cooked, serve at the table with your Toad in the Hole, mashed potatoes, greens and baked beans (or maybe a green salad if you’re feeling a little guilty)
Another excellent English dish is the Shepherd’s Pie, which is made out of minced lamb and mashed potato. A try of this is a must!
500 g lean minced lamb
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 x 400 g tin of cannellini beans
2 sticks of celery
250 g chestnut mushrooms
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
800 ml organic chicken or veg stock
800 g swede
800 g potatoes
2 tablespoons semi-skimmed milk
15 g mature Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon mint sauce
350 g frozen peas
- Put the mince into a cold casserole pan. Place on a high heat, add a really good pinch of black pepper and cook for 15 minutes, or until dark golden, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
- Pick and finely chop the rosemary leaves, drain the beans, then stir both into the pan. Cook and stir for 8 minutes, or until the beans start to pop and it’s all getting dark and gnarly.
- Peel the onions and carrots, trim the celery, wipe the mushrooms clean, then finely chop it all (or blitz in a food processor). Stir into the pan and sweat for 10 minutes on medium-high, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the flour, followed by the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer on a low heat with the lid on for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.
- Wash the swede and potatoes (leaving the skins on for extra nutritional benefit) and cut into 3cm chunks.
- Cook just the swede in a large pan of boiling salted water for 10 minutes, add the potatoes for 10 more minutes, or until cooked through, drain well, mash with the milk and grated cheese, and season to perfection.
- Check the consistency of the mince – you want it slightly wetter than you think, as it will thicken further in the oven. Add the Worcestershire and mint sauces, taste, and season to perfection.
- Sprinkle the peas over the mince, letting them sit on the surface to help prevent the mash from sinking in too much. Put spoons of mash randomly on top, using a fork to scuff it up and make valleys and mountains, increasing the surface area, and the crispy bits.
- Bake for 50 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Nice with seasonal greens.
Something sweet shouldn’t be left out so I’m happy to introduce the one and only tasty and lovely: Scone! My favourite!! 🙂
350g self-raising flour, plus more for dusting
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
85g butter, cut into cubes
3 tbsp. caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
squeeze lemon juice (see Know-how below)
beaten egg, to glaze
jam and clotted cream, to serve
- Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Tip the flour into a large bowl with the salt and baking powder, then mix. Add the butter, then rub in with your fingers until the mix looks like fine crumbs. Stir in the sugar.
- Put the milk into a jug and heat in the microwave for about 30 secs until warm, but not hot. Add the vanilla and lemon juice, then set aside for a moment. Put a baking sheet in the oven.
- Make a well in the dry mix, then add the liquid and combine it quickly with a cutlery knife – it will seem pretty wet at first. Scatter some flour onto the work surface and tip the dough out. Dredge the dough and your hands with a little more flour, then fold the dough over 2-3 times until it’s a little smoother. Pat into a round tin about 4cm deep.
- Take a 5cm cutter (smooth-edged cutters tend to cut more cleanly, giving a better rise) and dip it into some flour. Plunge into the dough, then repeat until you have four scones. You may need to press what’s left of the dough back into a round to cut out another four.
- Brushthe tops with beaten egg, then carefully place onto the hot baking tray.
Bake for 10 mins until risen and golden on the top. Eat just warm or cold on the day of baking, generously topped with jam and clotted cream. If freezing, freeze once cool. Defrost, then put in a low oven (about 160C/fan140C/gas 3) for a few mins to refresh.
Hey guys, Halloween is coming the end of this week! Any plans at all? Hot parties at clubs? Making spooky costumes with friends? Watching old horror films over the night? Or baking gross shaped cup cakes with your family which is my favourite!
Well, you all probably know the things above I have just mentioned. So, I would like to suggest a fresh thing to do this Halloween which is ‘Exploring haunted places’.
Did you know that there are hundreds of haunted places in the UK, including the world’s famous one ‘Borley Rectory’. As Halloween this year is coming very soon, I suggest that 10 of the world’s most haunted places to visit for the day for your special experience on Halloween while you are in the UK. Please note that I get these most of information from www.hauntedrooms.co.uk
1. Borley Rectory, Essex (the most haunted house in England)
This house was built in 1863 on the site of an old monastery. It was burnt to the ground in 1939, however it got well known as being the most haunted house after a loads of unexplained paranormal goings on reported.
One of the earliest sighting was a nun. The nun has been seen and heard several times throughout the years. According to local folklore, a nun from a nearby nunnery fell in love with a monk from the monastery, and the couple attempted to elope together. They were ground and sentenced to death. The monk was reported to have been sent to the gallows in the monastery whilst the nun was sealed into the walls of the nunnery alive. This nun is believed that she is still looking for the monk in the hope of running away together again.
But she seemed to be most active during the time in Harry Bull. This Harry Bull is the background of the film <The Conjuring>.
Anyway, the next most significant of reports come from Eric Smith and his wife. The first documented paranormal activity was in the early 1900’s when the owner, Eric Smith and his wife contacted Daily Mirror newspaper to report “the strange goings on.”. They reported mysterious footsteps, doorbells ringing of their own accord, and poltergeist activities.
The next residences of the house were Rev.Foyster and his wife Marianne. They both were to continue to experience the same phenomena that the other people witnessed before, but the poltergeist activity seemed to become more aggressive with reports of smashed glasses, broken windows, and Marianne being thrown from her bed by an unseen force. The couple was to also experience otherworldly messages on the walls, which defied any logical reason like other reports.
After 5 years, the Foysters left the house leaving the Daily Mirror newspaper team to continue their study. And a full account of what they experienced was published in the book ‘The Most Haunted House in England’.
2. Ancient Ram Inn, Gloucestershire (Currently the Most haunted house in Britain)
Many people believe that Ancient Ram Inn is the most haunted house in Britain. The inn was once owned by the St.Mary’s Church when it was first built. Because of the reported spectres seen in the inn, it has been investigated by various paranormal researchers. It has been featured in various television shows, such as Most Haunted and the US series ‘Ghost Adventures’.
The house itself is said to have been the location of many sinister happenings, including child sacrifice, suicide, black magic rituals and was also used as a hideout by criminals. The current owner, John Humphries believes that he shares his home with all sorts of spooks – two demons, a witch, orbs and other ghostly presences, and many people who have visited the property have described it as the ‘scariest place’ they’ve ever been to.
One popular legend surrounding the Ancient Ram Inn is that of the witch burned at the stake. She was burned at the stake in the 1500s. A lot of people believe that the woman’s spirit still haunts one of the rooms of the house to this day. It is believed that the woman took refuge in one of the rooms of the house before she was captured and killed. Today, that room is called “The Witch’s Room”.
One of the most haunted rooms in the entire inn is called “The Bishop’s Inn”. The room is found on the first floor of the house. When the inn was still a bed and breakfast, a lot of guests would not want to sleep in the room. Some who did sleep ended up fleeing in the middle of the night. It is said that the ghost of a monk haunts the room on a regular basis.
The ghost of a centurion on horseback has also been spotted. It is said that the plumber who saw the apparition was startled out of his wits when the apparition went straight through the wall. There is also talk of a succubus which creeps into the beds of sleeping visitors.
3. Pendle Hill, Lancashire
Pendle Hill has a notorious reputation for being a place where twelve accused witches lived in the 17th century. These twelve supposed witches were accused of murdering ten people. They figured prominently in what is known as the Lancashire witch trials. Ten were found guilty and executed by hanging. The history of the witch trials has given the place an eerie atmosphere, and several terrifying reports.
Pendle Hill is notorious for its history in witchcraft and worshipping the devil. There are various tours in the area today which trace the witches from their arrest to their execution. The Pendle Hill witches are said to still haunt the buildings and the villages. Visitors have reported feeling anger when visiting the grounds. Local people even fear discussing the events that went on during the witch trial.
Over the years, Pendle Hill has been featured in the show “Most Haunted” among several other TV shows and ghost tours. Members of the television crew reported being hurt; some even said that they were strangled by unseen hands. The medium (Derek Acorah) reported being in contact with Elizabeth Device, one of the accused witches. Elizabeth told them that there were nine more spirits in the room and none of the spirits wanted the crew present.
4. Berry Pomeroy Castle, Devon
The castle is said to be the abode of various spectres. A number of ghostly phenomena and ghostly sightings have been reported in the castle. Some of the most reported apparitions in the castle are that of the Blue Lady and the White Lady.
The White Lady is the restless soul of Margaret Pomeroy. She haunts the dungeons of St. Margaret’s Tower and has been seen waving to visitors. She was held captive in the castle dungeons by her own sister, Eleanor, because of jealousy and starved to death in the dungeons.
The Blue Lady lures people into various parts of the castle and gets them lost. People believe that she is the ghost of the daughter of one of the Norman castle lords. She was raped by her father and became pregnant with his baby. Her father strangled the child in one of the rooms of the castle. Other tales say that it was she who strangled the child. She has become the death portent of the Seymours.
People have witnessed strange lights in the castle. Voices have been heard and cold spots in the castle have been reported too. There are also the apparitions of a lady wearing a gray dress and a Cavalier, as well as ghostly shadows.
5. Woodchester Mansion, Gloucestershire
It used to be known as Spring Park. During the middle of construction, the building was abandoned. Although it appears complete from the outside, the floors, plaster and rooms are missing on the inside. It has been like so since the 1870s. This Gothic mansion is said to be the home of many ghosts.
The haunted reputation of Woodchester Mansion has led it to be featured in several ghostly television programs. It has been featured in Most Haunted Life in 2003 and then again in 2005. It has also been featured in Hauntings and Ghost Hunters International. Several sightings have been reported over the last two hundred years.
In 1902, a vicar was reported to have seen a strange apparition at the mansion’s gates. A phantom horseman has also been seen on the mansion’s drive. It is said that the Mansion itself is the epicentre of all the haunting happening in the area. There is the Tall Man of the Chapel which has been seen many times and the elemental in the house’s cellar. The Mansion is said to be the home of some of the scariest ghosts in the United Kingdom.
Visitors have collapsed and have been attacked by the ghostly dwellers of the mansion. There is a floating head which has been seen by many visitors in one of the bathrooms. There is also the spectre of the old woman who likes to attack female visitors by grabbing them in the dark. It is said that the reason why the mansion is haunted is because it stands on the site of the three previous buildings which are also haunted.
The mansion has its own chapel and satanic rituals have been reported in the chapel. People have reported hearing a woman singing an Irish folk song in the scullery. The ghost of a young girl has been seen several times playing and running up and down the stairs of the mansion’s first floor.
Now, I would like to recommend top 3 haunted places near Bournemouth and Poole where should be very close to you to visit or even walk by… Please note that I get this information from http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk.
6. Wimborne: Knowlton Church
On the outskirts of Wimborne, Knowlton Church is regarded as one of the most haunted places in the county. Known for its ruined Norman Church, Neolithic rings and pagan relics, paranormal investigators have recorded sightings of unexplained phenomena and even those who don’t believe in ghosts have had weird experiences.
There have been spooky sightings of a cloaked figure with a blue sheen at the 14th century deserted church, as well as people reporting centurion like figures, a woman kneeling outside the church, the sound of fighting and, most commonly, a man or men on horseback who visibly rides through the church as if it was not there.
Others claim there is a strange feeling as you approach the church – one dogwalker said his pet stopped, started barking and backed away from the sight in broad daylight.
Rumours have it that Knowlton Church is still used for ceremonies, with tales of black and white magic.
Beside the B3078, north of Wimborne Minster, a coffin has been seen lying on the verge. It is believed to be the coffin of a farmer who committed suicide by hanging himself in a barn nearby.
7. Poole: Crown Hotel, King Charles pub
As you’d expect from a town of its years, Poole is home to a plethora of traditional pubs and ancient buildings, which have been standing since the days of smugglers – the architecture is stunning and the old cobbled streets are said to be haunted.
In the Old Town area, The Crown Hotel is famously host to several spooky goings on, such as lights turning on and off and the ghostly sound of a piano being played in the former stables.
The venue is said to have been the home to two children who were locked up by a parent who was too embarrassed to let them run around and play in front of other people, and who now let their protests be heard in the form of crying and yelling.
There have also been sightings of a ghost at the King Charles pub on Poole Quay, as well as the sound of disembodies footsteps and a young female voice.
In the nearby high street, in the former Daily Echo building, a ghost by the name of Mr Jenkins was frequently spotted rudely pushing past people on the stairs.
Other haunted buildings include Custom House on the quay, the Guildhall and the waters at Poole Harbour, where bells have been heard ringing at night.
8. Bournemouth: Langtry Manor Hotel
Bournemouth is said to be home to “younger ghosts”, including the ghosts of a soldier wearing a Second World War uniform and a horse which both haunt the Town Hall.
One of the town’s most haunted buildings is the Langtry Manor Hotel, built by Edward VII for his mistress, Lillie Langtry.
The hotel is believed to be haunted by Lillie’s ghost, which has reportedly appeared to both guests and staff in the form of a grey shadow.
Footsteps, moving items and voices have also been experienced.
If you dare to visit these places above, please be careful and bring your own an amulet to avert evils. Well, I am so brave enough, so that looking and reading these places doesn’t make me scared at all. Well, but I might sleep next to my parents’ room tonight. Because, you know, just in case…