Bringing Hosting Home

At Mackenzie School of English, we are firm believers in the mantra ‘why get someone else to do something that we can do ourselves? Surely we can do it bigger, better and smarter!’

Therefore, this winter we decided to bring the homestay operation in-house. We had found in the past that homestay (living with a family), for some reason, was the part of the business that gave us the most consternation.

Not because we didn’t have good hosts, or because we didn’t approach it with the same attention to detail as we do to other key areas but because the communication never seemed to quite flow. We felt our relationships with the hosts and our capacity for dealing with situations would improve greatly by having a dedicated Accommodation Officer who was based at the school.

Of course there was some concern – where would we find a suitable candidate (or anyone brave enough) for the newly created role of Accommodation Officer? Could we cope with the extra duties involved, would our ‘out of hours’ phone ever stop ringing and would any hosts actually want to work with us?

Thus began our marketing drive – a bout of flyering, a post on an advertising website and an advert on local radio station Leith FM started a slow trickle of interest among local people.

Luckily the good old Scottish ‘gift of the gab’ then took over and we found, to our great delight, that not only was there interest from enthusiastic new recruits but that the fantastic hosts who had hosted for Mackenzie School before were still out there and still interested in working with us. Although this time, they would be working directly with Mackenzie School and that is key to the success of the operation.

The trust and two-way partnership between school and host is invaluable to the student experience and ultimately, to our success. So we make life easier for our hosts. We take away the headache of having to make packed lunches during the week by providing students with lunch at the school.

We prevent students from hanging around bored in the evenings by keeping the school open until 10pm every night. We provide peace of mind by arranging taxis home for our students after evening activities.

And now, we offer the added peace of mind of clear communication with a dedicated person within the school. That is why we are confident that approaching home-stay operations our way – the Mackenzie way – might just be the best way.

Laura Hutchinson on behalf of Mackenzie School of English, Edinburgh, Scotland.