This past March I gained a unique insight into British Culture by staying with a British Host in Wrexham, Wales through Host UK. To be honest, I had never heard of Wrexham before let alone ever imagined that one day I would travel there to spend the weekend with a total stranger.
What is Host UK?
For those who have never heard of Host UK, like myself previously, the program pairs international students with Host families somewhere in the UK. Each country has its own set of regional organizers who interview and visit Host’s (and potential Host’s) houses to ensure that the location is up to standard with Host UK guidelines. Only international students can apply for Host. If you are a University of Westminster student then the school will cover the application fee. We simply need to pay the transportation costs. If you are unsure about going alone, you can also choose to go on a Host visit with a friend.
I had applied for a solo Host visit earlier in December but was somewhat disappointed not to hear back. I still kept my weekends open just in case they reached out to me. In February I received a call from a Welsh woman formally inviting me to stay with her in March. I was very excited for this opportunity! I knew I would be able to sit in a true British home and learn more about British culture.
My Deeper Exploration into British Culture
On a Friday afternoon, I left the familiar streets of London and headed for Wrexham. I enjoyed the very pleasant train ride and loved getting to see more of the countryside. My anticipation was growing as I had never been this far north in England or Wales. I had to take two trains to get to Wrexham train station where my Host met me.
My Host was a lovely British woman who greatly reminded me of my grandmother with her welcoming smile and warm greeting. She pulled up in her purple car and off we went. The first stop was to pick up wine, so I knew it was going to be a great weekend.
Stepping into her house immediately took me back to my great-grandfather’s house in Maryville, Tennessee. The furniture, colors, large amounts of knick-knacks, and the grandfather clock that chimed every 15 minutes, all took me back to a familiar home. I immediately relaxed and felt comfortable there.
After my Host gave me a tour of the house and my room, and I properly met the 15 year old puppy, Duty, we sat down and waited for her friend to arrive for dinner. We talked about my studies, Tennessee, and what I was wanting to see this weekend. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so my Host suggested we visit a nearby town on Saturday and the aqueduct on Sunday. Her friend arrived for dinner and we had the best stuffed chicken and salad I have ever had. I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t had a proper home cooked meal in many months or her cooking abilities, but either way I ate everything on my plate.
After dinner, we “went through” (a British term I had never heard in real life, I thought they only said this on Downton Abbey) to the living room where we watched a program on the royal family. I found this interesting because I thought British people were not interested in the royal family. Apparently they are though because every night we watched a program on the royals.
The next day I woke up to the amazing smell of bacon. My Host had spent the morning making a lovely breakfast. Afterwards, I walked Duty around the block before we headed to a town called Corwen. Here we saw a statue dedicated to Owain Glyndwr. Owain was proclaimed Prince of Wales and the father of modern Wales around the year 1400. Afterwards, my Host took me to a town called Llangollen where she dropped me off to walk around the city.
I spent a few hours walking along the river and through the city. It was nice getting out of the hustle and bustle of London for a weekend and getting back to “nature”. One of my favorite parts of the trip was taking the bus back to Wrexham and being able to see more of the pretty countryside and different villages.
I arrived in Wrexham and once I made it to my Host’s house, prepared a dessert from my region called a peach cobbler. My Host invited another friend for dinner which was delicious spaghetti bolognese. They both really enjoyed my cobbler and even asked for the recipe, which is always a good sign.
The next day, my Host took me to see Chirk Castle with its famous white gates with a “bloody hand” on top and to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal. This was one of the highlights of my weekend because I was able to cross the aqueduct. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a sight to see. The day I was there it was incredibly windy, but I made it across! Afterwards, we went to lunch and had homemade mac & cheese, which was of course amazing. Finally, I said my goodbyes and left Wrexham for London by train around 18:00.
Two Cultures a World Apart?
Overall, I had a great weekend with my Host who truly included me in her way of living. I got a full sense of what it’s like to live in Britain, especially in a little town in Wales. Being an American, I felt like our cultures were very similar but I still learned interesting things about the way of life in the area. I really enjoyed learning more about the history of Wales and how most people born and raised in Wales speak Welsh first before English. So when visiting, you will see road signs translated in Welsh and English.
Is Host UK Something for You?
You are able to make this weekend what you want it to be. If you want to see a certain site or learn more about your Host family, then that is exactly what this weekend can offer you. My biggest advice for anyone thinking about using Host UK is to go for it! It is only a weekend and you can use the time to learn about a culture different from your own. You never know what you could get out of it until you try.
Visit Rachel’s personal blog at jrachelwest.com/blog for more!<
As a simple girl from a southern US state, the thought of moving to a big city was nerve racking, let alone it being one of the biggest cities in the world, London. I knew that my drive, passion, and desire to overcome my fears would lead me down a path of self enlightenment. One of my favorite parts of living in such a great city is getting to meet so many wonderful people from all over the world, and being able to easily travel. When I am not studying, you can find me on a plane going to explore someplace new, or watching animal videos on Youtube.
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