Being home stay family: a win-win situation

January 2, 2020

Host family wanted! That was the headline Robert Janssen read. Are you up for an unforgettable, cultural and educational experience? Are you willing to give one or more students  a warm Christmas holiday? Then open your doors! And that is exactly what Robert did.

He and his family are one of the host families that welcome UWC Maastricht students into their homes over the Christmas break. Some children who live on campus cannot go home during the Christmas holidays because a plane ticket is simply too expensive for them, whilst others come from conflict zones and it would be unsafe for them to return. But because UWC Maastricht is closed during the holidays, these students have to vacate their rooms. Fortunately, there are more and more families who enjoy having them to stay. “It really is a very inspiring experience,” says Robert. “We all learned so much!”

Iqbal, who this year stayed with Robert and his family, is from Somaliland. Even though Robert’s own daughter also attends UWC the girls hadn’t previously met. The first day they decorated the Christmas tree together, something Iqbal had never done before. “I’m Muslim and we don’t celebrate Christmas. But I have always learned to be open to other religions and I have discovered that Christmas is about more than faith. It’s about being with people you love and sharing happiness.”

Celebrating Christmas wasn’t the only new experience for Iqbal. They visited Snowworld together, where she saw snow for the first time, and the three-country point in Vaals, and the circus … “Actually, we did all the things we used to do with our own children” Robert says. “And we learned a lot of new things too. Iqbal told us about her country and her culture; we had to laugh when she said she has a goat as a pet!”

For Iqbal, talking to the family about her own culture was also a really positive experience. “When I chatted with Robert the next day, I discovered he’d looked up all kinds of things about it. That was super cool of him.”

It was a great experience for everyone involved. “It is instructive for me and my children to hear about the different circumstances that young people are growing up in elsewhere in the world.” says Robert. “I definitely intend to open my doors again to a student who can’t go home during the break. And then maybe someone from another part of the world, so that we can learn about that as well”.

Would you like to know more, or to sign up as a host family? Please send a message to: