Over 170 Homestay students arrived in Ottawa during late August and early September to attend OCDSB schools as new international students. For most of these students it was their first time in Ottawa; they were away from their family about to attend a new school in a different country and live with a Homestay host family.
Nonetheless, each of these students had an extensive support system already in place upon their arrival. Whether from a friendly welcome by the Homestay family to visiting the OCENET offices at the Albert Street Education Centre, from the support of the Homestay and OCENET Orientation sessions to the help of Guidance counselors in their new schools, everyone involved is dedicated to assist each new international student make a successful adjustment to life and school in Canada.
Most people progress through a predictable series of steps in making the adjustment to a new environment and lifestyle. Adapting to a new school and a new country can be difficult. Being away from home, family and friends, sometimes for the first time, can also be very challenging for some students.
As a way of monitoring how each international student is doing, students are asked to give feedback on their experience. This year students were invited to complete an online survey about their feelings on their Homestay placement, their school and how they are coping personally in their new environments.
Based on the online survey results, the international students showed an extremely high level of comfort with all aspects of their experience. Most love being in Canada, enjoy their Homestay host families and all of their school classes. The overwhelming majority are happy, making new friends, and participating in extracurricular school activities. Everyone feels their learning is progressing and that their English language skills are improving.
During the morning of Saturday, October 29, all new international students and their host families were invited to attend workshops at the Albert Street Education Centre. The Homestay host parents attended information sessions in the Library with the Homestay coordinators while the students attended a brief plenary session in the Auditorium where they were informed about intercultural communication and the common stages that a new international student experiences. All were re-assured that any occasional feelings of “homesickness” and “culture shock” are natural for everyone.
Later, students were divided into groups of 20-25 students each to attend a workshop on a series of realistic scenarios which a new international student might face. Students had an opportunity to meet with each other and to brainstorm for ways to solve the issues presented in the scenarios. These scenarios covered a broad range of topics dealing with issues such as homework, food choices, assisting with Homestay chores, physical exercise, things to do in Ottawa, and internet usage. Students put their heads together to arrive at and share constructive ways in which to overcome and successfully adjust to the changes and challenges of being an international student. Students found the morning to be energizing, rewarding and helpful.
Local teachers generously volunteered to assist in facilitating the workshops and the student discussions.
Many thanks to Mr. Best, Mr. Duggan, Ms. Hanes, Ms. Hemstreet, Ms. Rapsey and Mr. Speidel for supporting our newly arrived international students.