For the past two years, the north-east has warmly welcomed overseas students to learn English and tour the area, and bookings for 2017 indicate that the area is proving ever popular.
This is partly due to the beauty the area affords. French school groups who come to tour the area are based in Stonehaven and stay for short periods of four to five nights from March to June. They delight in its attractive harbour, stunning cliffs and unspoilt beach.
They are also keen to explore the delights of St Cyrus Nature Reserve, Dunnottar Castle and venture further afield to Aberdeen, Inverness, Elgin and Dundee.
What the French pupils enjoy the most is the warmth and conviviality of local host families. For many pupils, it is their first taste of Scottish life.
Emilie Bouchard said: “I loved this week in Stonehaven, even eating haggis. I hope to come back again soon.”
Staying with families in picturesque coastal villages such as Johnshaven, Gourdon, Inverbervie and Newtonhill and more rural locations such as Netherley, Muchalls and St Cyrus is a particular draw for those pupils who mainly come from cities such as Paris and Lille.
The experience is equally rewarding for local host families. Moira Ross reported that her “two young ladies were easy to get along with” and that she was “sad to see them go”. Other host families enjoyed seeing their own children have a go at speaking French and being introduced to people from other cultures.
The profile of a host family is wide and varied. Hosts can be families with young children, retired couples and single women. What is important is an open, friendly nature and a clean, comfortable home with two spare beds. Families receive payment for hosting so it’s an additional source of income and, as pupils are out touring with their teachers in the daytime, normal work/school pick up is not affected.
The pupils’ welfare is overseen by Language Travel Tours, which has over 20 years’ experience of providing educational language stays throughout UK. Clare Plaister of Language Travel Tours said: “It is not just host families and teachers who receive additional income by providing accommodation and lessons, the local community benefits too with pupils spending in shops and cafes and paying entry fees for local attractions.”
In addition to receiving school groups, Language Travel Tours also organises school integration programmes whereby pupils stay with a host family while attending a local school. One such pupil, Eleonore Raynal, was a pupil at The Gordon Schools in Huntly and said: “The Gordon Schools is an excellent school. I wake up every day happy to go there. In my host family, I felt welcomed and well taken care of. I particularly enjoyed the folk music sessions Rosemary took me too. It will be one of the strongest memories I will have from Scotland because of the atmosphere of enjoying live music.”
Eleonore’s host Rosemary is always delighted to be involved. She said: “I have special memories of all the students who stay with me.”
Also on the increase for 2017, are the homestay or total immersion stays whereby students of all nationalities and ages are taught by an English teacher in the teacher’s home. The students range from European school children to Russian adults here for business English to a 63-year-old Japanese woman. Their goal is to cut themselves off from their native tongue and immerse themselves in the Scottish way of life. Chiara Roch from Italy agrees that the homestay experience is the most effective way to improve your English language skills.
Helping students obtain a mastery and confidence in the English language is not only rewarding but a great way to supplement your income by working on an ad hoc basis from home. Teachers are based in Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire and are EFL or English qualified or hold a degree or national teaching qualification.