How to Host Friends and Family While Studying Abroad

Jill Shaughnessy London Internship Program, England


January 28, 2020
Currently studying at: London Internship Program, England
Homeschool: Arcadia University

You are traveling the world! There may be some people from back home who might want to share some of that experience with you! This blog post outlines my tips and tricks for planning and hosting family members or friends who are visiting your study abroad country!

Visiting a Visitor

Last semester abroad, when I was on FYSAE, my parents came to visit, as well as my sister. I learned a lot about being a host, something I hadn’t really done before. It is an interesting topic because you are abroad. You may be in an unfamiliar location. Your family are technically visiting a visitor, especially if it is early on in your semester. It may seem like a difficult task, especially when you are just are getting used to your new country. But I have compiled some tips in managing guests and having a wonderful time as well.

This semester, my sister visited me pretty early on, as she was here 3 weeks into my program. I was so happy to host her! However, this was also my sister’s 4th time in London, England, so I wanted to make sure she saw new and exciting things, and we had a nice time together. 

My sister and I did a bunch of cool things like….

  • Walking the South Bank
  • Getting lunch at a Dutch pancake house
  • Going to the Tate Modern observation deck
  • Getting a classic pint at a pub
  • Walking around Hyde Park
  • Meet cute dogs!
  • Getting high tea at a Victorian-style hotel
  • Exploring Canary Wharf
  • Eating at Nandos
  • Making dinner together
  • Seeing the animals at Kentish Town Farm
  • Checking out popup museums in Camden Town
  • Exploring Neal’s Yard and the Seven Dials in Covent Garden
  • Shopping
  • Traveling to Gods Own Junkyard
  • Taking Instagram pictures


1.Check your residence rules

My sister had to stay in a hotel because of my residence's rules. Although, it was fun because I got to stay in a new area of London! I also suggest helping your guest look for accommodation if this is the case. It can help ease their worries, and you will understand the areas and locations of your city! But don’t be afraid to have your guest hang out at your dorm. It may be simple, but seeing where and how you live can be special to an outsider.

2. Communicate your plans but allow some surprises!

I planned some things and events for us to do. My sister planned some things for us to do. This created a good balance for her trip! Also, allow for some spontaneity! Some things in your itinerary can be a spur of the moment or let a day or two or even a few hours to just to go with the flow. 

3. Research

This may go without saying and kind of contradicts the one before but it is important to have a game plan. Understand what types of things your guest will be interested in and how to get there! This is especially important if they have traveled before or even visited before. You don’t want repetitively. Don’t assume your guest will plan everything or things will just happen! It takes a little research. But find things that you both can enjoy!

4. Travel

Don’t be afraid of going out of your area! God’s Own Junkyard (a cool art cafe with neon lights) was one of my favorite parts of my weekend with my sister. It was in Zone 3, which is a little far, but it was new for both of us and a wonderful adventure!

5. Try new things together

It will feel super special if you do more than show your guest your life while abroad. Do things you have never experienced together! Like new foods or new places!

6. Make meals together

Cooking together is such a fun activity and it also saves money! It is cool for the guest to see the style of grocery shopping in the new country. Even if it turns out horrible, I’m pretty sure you will still have a good time!

7. Don’t be stressed

Being stressed and having too many expectations won’t making hosting fun! Remember that it's okay to have downtime to rest and the trip doesn’t have to be perfect. It is just about seeing your loved ones in your new home!

8. Don’t try to handle too many guests

Guests are not necessarily a burden but they can be overwhelming and restrict the individual discovery during a semester abroad. Try to plan guests far apart (if you have multiple) as it will feel less stressful and more fun! Limit the amount of time if possible. You aren’t being rude if you do this. You have classes and things to do! They will understand. I suggest small weekend trips! That’s what my family does as it is cheaper and easier for everyone!

9. Meet somewhere!

If you are tired of the country you are studying in, and are not excited for another guest, meet somewhere in Europe, or wherever is close enough! My aunt wanted to see me, but it was coming to the end of my semester, and I was lacking the energy to host someone in London. So instead, we met in Stockholm, Sweden where our shared family resides. It was a great trip, and I was so excited. It was a cool experience for me, and I got to share it with someone close to me!

10. Create a personalized tour! 

As a student ambassador at Arcadia, I love walking backwards and giving tours. So during my FYSAE semester, I slowly created what I called the ‘Jill Tour’. I have completed this tour over 5 times, and I love it every time. I created the path from class field trips and bus journeys. It allows you to spend time with your family, as well as see your country/city. The Jill tour started at the Arcadia University Center in Holborn, then to Buckingham Palace, St. James Court, Clarence House, Westminster Abbey, The London Eye, Big Ben, 10 Downing Street, and Trafalgar Square. Sometimes I would add on Brick Lane Beigels, too! When I was giving this tour to my parents last year, we ran into none other than Prince Harry leaving the Abbey! All I can say, it was a memorable tour! I did a condensed version of this tour for my new friends this semester, and they loved it! It may not be everyone's cup of tea (haha, British), but you could do a tour of your favorite coffee shops or a walk in your favorite park. It is a lovely day with your guests!

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog as the subject is not often discussed! Stay tuned for more London adventures. 

Next blog: Learning out of the classroom! CBS News internship