​Life as an Area Representative

Steve Baylis is one of the wonderful people who form part of the MyEducation local support network across the UK. Steve has been with MyEducation since we opened and his experience, knowledge and kindness has made him an invaluable volunteer for our organisation. With his wife Michelle, Steve also hosts students each year and supports other students and host families living in the Birmingham area and beyond. Steve has kindly taken the time to tell us about his experience as a Local Area Representative.

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Steve and I live in Redditch, a reasonably sized town just south of Birmingham. For the last 20 + years I have worked within the voluntary sector supporting charities to fundraise and local communities to address and work to challenge social injustice. I now work for the Catholic Church as the Head of Development, supporting parishes to fundraise and to deliver social change in local communities.

What made you want to become an Area Representative?

I sort of fell into the role of Area Rep. When the previous organisation we were hosting through closed down, I was asked to be a Rep with MyEducation as I had some 9 years’ experience of hosting at that time and knew the majority of local families who were hosting.​

How long have you been an Area Representative?

​I have been an Area Rep for about four years officially, but had been supporting young people placed with local families for a number of years previously by providing opportunities to visit other parts of the country.

What qualities do you have which you believe make you good at the role?

I think having a good understanding around the issues a young person might face when living away from home for the first time, and also having a really good understanding of the role of the family unit in delivering a successful and positive experience

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the role?

I think the most challenging aspect of the role now is trying to encourage young people to separate their old lives back home from their new lives in the UK. Young people need to make an emotional move to the UK as well as the physical one, the use of social media makes this extremely difficult if they are still in constant contact with their friends at home. This makes the transition to life with their new family much, much harder, especially if they are homesick and their first conversation is with friends and family back home.

The most rewarding aspect has to be seeing the growth and development in the young person, and the genuine love families have for their new family member.

What changes do you see in a student from when they arrive to when they return home?

I think the biggest thing you see is the personal confidence that the young person has. The confidence to take on new challenges, to learn new things and the confidence to make life decisions. We have had students from all over the world, one former Italian student loved the British education system so much, she stayed on after the programme to finish her A levels, and next week we are picking her up from university having spent 3 years studying Politics and International relationships.

We often see scared young people getting off the plane, and when they eventually go home, we see strong and independent young adults.

What is the food/dish that you have most introduced to students which they have not had at home?

This has to be the regular Friday night fish and chip supper, either that or a proper Birmingham Balti!!

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What trips or hobbies do you take/introduce the students to?

We always try to take our students out to visit new places and encourage them to do something different. My wife & I are both climbing instructors, so our students always have the opportunity to learn to climb, the majority love the sport and a number have continued this after leaving us. We love to travel and this last year have taken our students to;

Yorkshire

North Wales and Pembroke

Edinburgh

Glasgow

Perth

Bath

London

Brighton

Warwick

And a dozen other small town and villages around the Midlands and the Cotswolds. We are also members of the National Trust, so having a Family membership means we are able to take our students to fantastic historic buildings and sites for free, giving them a real feeling of what makes the UK so great​

Steve's wife Michelle with two of their exchange students in 2013

What do you believe are the benefits of studying overseas?

I think the most important benefits are those where a student becomes more confident, not only personally, but also in the use of the English language. The programme additionally gives young people a wider understanding of cultures, beliefs, and hopefully helps them develop a love for travel and adventure.

Where is your favourite place on the planet?

This is an easy one, a small ski resort high up in the Colorado Rockies called Crested Butte. It’s so high up on the continental divide at over 12,000 feet you actually get altitude sickness for the first couple of days, but the views are the most stunning I have ever seen.

Would you recommend someone to become an Area Rep and if so, why?

I would certainly recommend being a Rep, it’s not always easy, especially if you have to support a young person or a family through difficult times, but being able to support a young person on their journey of exploration into the British way of life is really rewarding.

If you would like to learn more about being an Area Representative then please see our Become an Area Representative section on our website or call the office on 02380 970 924.

Address

Wessex House,

Upper Market Street,

Eastleigh, Hampshire,
SO50 9FD

Contact info

Main office number: +44 (0) 2380 970 924

Email address: info@myeducationuk.co.uk

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