Christmas can be a lonely time for overseas students unable to return home. Many are thousands of miles away from their families and cannot afford to fly back as they watch others leave campus to be with loved ones.

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But thanks to families across Norfolk and Suffolk, 28 overseas students were given a taste of a traditional British Christmas.

Undergraduates and postgraduates from countries including Malaysia, China, Taiwan and Colombia have been among those spending time with families across the region this Christmas after being matched by Host UK. They arrived on Christmas Eve and stayed until December 27.

David and Sarah Patey, of Woodton, near Bungay, have welcomed students into their home for the last four Christmases and are among 80 families in Norfolk and Suffolk to host others throughout the year.

Mr Patey, who is the regional organiser for Host UK, said: “I used to work with overseas students when I was in London, so when we came up here it was a nice way of keeping in contact with overseas and educational work.”

The couple, who have three children and one grandson, have welcomed students from a variety of countries into their home, and have kept in touch with many afterwards.

Mrs Patey, 56, said: “We have met a fascinating selection of people over the years.”

She said that their black Labrador Trigger has always been very popular with the students, while many also found it fascinating to watch and help in the kitchen.

“It adds to their whole experience of the UK. They stay in the UK but often live in small clutches of people from their own country, congregating and cooking their own food together, but many want an experience and come to a home to see what is ordinary to us,” she said.

Mr Patey, 55, said that is also a cultural experience for the host families. “They say it is nice to meet people from different parts of the world,” he said.

For more information on the scheme email hostdavid.patey@googlemail.com or call 01508 483838.

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