The teenager thought she was making a dream come true by going to Brighton to improve her English. But his language stay, organized by EF, went badly.
Amina, 17, will have bitter memories of her long-awaited trip to the UK. Student of rhéto language option, the teenager had started looking for a language course to improve her English. La Jurbisienne thought she had found the right formula with a trip organized by EF Education First. But the reality of the stay was not up to the investment made, regret Amina and her sister Sarah. Far from it: an absent host family, accommodation deemed “unsanitary”, courses given by videoconference… “What she experienced is far from the idyllic clichés”says Sarah via the orange Alert us button.
EF, a language travel organization with effective marketing
In 2020, Amina went on a trip with her parents to London. She had a “coup de coeur” for this city, she confides. From then on, the teenager dreamed of returning to England as part of a stay “more focused on the language”, she explains. In early 2022, with the Covid crisis easing, Amina wanted to make this desire come true. Searching the internet, she quickly came across EF’s offerings. “The site seemed good to me and it was well explained. I immediately got in touch with an agent there who took care of sending me the brochure”, says Amina. Indeed, as we have seen, EF’s sales department is distinguished by great responsiveness, then insistent marketing: personalized WhatsApp messages, sms, e-mail, letters…
Amina decided on a 12-day trip to Brighton over the Easter holidays, with English lessons on campus and accommodation with a host family. An EF counselor encouraged her to opt for this formula, rather than staying on campus, in order to optimize her language experience, she says. Travel cost? 1925 euros. “We were a little rushed for payment. Once the payment was made, I spent three weeks without having my questions answered by email”says Amina.
Disappointment quickly set in
On Sunday April 3, Amina took the Eurostar to London and then an EF van took her to Brighton, to her host family. As soon as she arrived, the place caused some discomfort in Amina. “The more I look at the house, the kitchen, the bedroom, the more I tell myself that it’s not possible, she says. In the kitchen “Disgusting cooking plates, with food residue on them. It was really dirty”. The bathroom ? “Really filthy”. “Humidity problems everywhere”she continues. “I thought it was going to be a disaster”she says.
The photos of the places taken by Amina
On site, two students were already staying in his room. What did not correspond to what had been sold to him, a room for two, denounces his sister. Soon after, a third student arrived. With two bunk beds and a small double bed in their room, Amina found herself forced to share her diaper: “I slept with someone I didn’t know because I had to. We had to squeeze”she says.
The room shared by 4 students
According to the teenager, the couple supposed to welcome her did not fulfill their role: “I absolutely did not interact with them during the whole stay, she regrets. The principle is that we take the meal together, that we can discuss, that they explain to us what we can visit in the city, etc. But Amina was only able to speak to them briefly on the first and last day: “We barely passed each other. They weren’t there when we woke up, or when we went to sleep. The only time they came home earlier, they asked us to leave the living room because it there was someone from their family who was there”.
There was no food
Amina did not share a meal with the British couple. She was also not fed on the spot. “There was no food. There was a fridge reserved for us, and her own fridge. In ours, she didn’t put anything except milk and bread. If we wanted to put things in our fridge, we had to buy it”, she laments. Her mother therefore gave her extra pocket money in her bank account so that she could buy her meals.
A temporary solution found with EF, after a difficult dialogue
This situation prompted Amina to share her disappointment with her family. “She didn’t dare tell us given the price of the trip”, notes his big sister. But with EF, his criticisms were not well received, Amina believes: “I had a very aggressive agent on the phone, telling me that I was capricious, precious, difficult, that I didn’t realize how lucky I was”, she says. Amina’s criticism ended up being heard when a second student placed in the same foster home also complained.
EF explains to us that indeed, when there are complaints from students, the follow-up is ensured from the Brussels office. “We will liaise with our colleagues on site. We see what the problem was and we propose solutions. In general, we propose solutions within 24 to 48 hours”he assures.
EF has excluded the family in question from its lists
Why is a host family selected by EF if they are not able to play the game? “It’s a bit like a job interview. A host family can look good during the interview and behave differently afterwards”, explains EF. After the stay, the organization draws conclusions according to the feedback from the students, who are invited to give their hosts a score from 1 to 5. “In this case, we stopped working with the host family in question”indicates EF.
Disgusted, Amina returned to Belgium earlier than planned
Three days after her arrival, Amina left her hosts to move into the campus residence. She only stayed on campus for 4 days because EF asked her for an additional 500 euros to stay until the end of the stay. The teenager therefore moved the date of her return ticket to return to Belgium prematurely.
“We offered to offer him the residence for the additional week”yet assures the head of EF. “These solutions were proposed except that she had already decided to return”he says. “We still reimbursed the 2nd part of the stay which was not provided”he argues.
English classes weren’t worth staying since most of them were given remotely, Amina and her family said. “Why go all the way to England to do video lessons?”, notes Sarah. And to conclude: “It was really the expected trip and in the end it turned into a nightmare. She didn’t even finish her lessons because she was disgusted with everything that had happened and how EF spoke to her”.