Hosting international students enriches family life for everyone




 Homestay parents Andrée-Anne and Bruce with their own children and several international students who enjoy family life in their home

 OCENET international students Nura (Germany), Laura (Colombia), and Zoe (China) happily show off a Canadian flag signed by many of their Canadian friends they made while studying in Canada

  • What interested you in becoming a Homestay host parent?

    To become a host family you need 3 things: room in your house, room in your schedule, but most importantly, room in your heart. Bruce and I both have graduate degrees in Education; we very much love kids and value lifelong learning. We thought hosting international students would allow us to learn about other cultures while ensuring that these kids receive the best Canadian experience possible. I was an international student myself for a year in Valencia, Spain, back in 1992 (when there were no internet, Skype or emails!). I loved every minute of it and made long-lasting friendships. This experience allowed me to understand what our international children are going through and how to meet their needs and expectations.

  • What was involved in the process of becoming a host parent to international students?

    When we decided to host, we researched what options were available. We made a few calls, sent a few emails, filled a few questionnaires, met a few amazing people, got a Police Check, and not long after we welcomed our first Chinese son, Peter.

  • How long have you been a host parent?

    We started hosting in 2010.

  • How many international students has your family hosted?

    Peter (China), Minh Ahn (Vietnam), David (Spain), Maria Paula (Colombia), Camila (Colombia), Nura (Germany), Zoe (China), Patricia (Spain), Coco (China), Boya (China), Sofia (Colombia), Andreza (Brazil), Laura (Colombia), Catalina (Chile), Sofia (Colombia), Nagi (Japan), Jocelyn (Mexico), and Lydia (China)… and we welcomed a few international parents too!

  • What is the most interesting or enriching aspect about being a host parent?

    We benefit so much from having our international children that we don’t think we could pick just one interesting and enriching aspect. Since we started hosting, our family increased significantly as we became parents of triplets in December of 2011 (yes, we moved to a bigger house!). Our own children certainly gain very much from having older sisters. At the young age of 3.5 years old, they already know how to locate the birth countries of all their international siblings on the map. Having young kids in the house allows our students to practice their English without any inhibitions… they quickly become familiar with Dr. Seuss!

Bruce and I treat our students the way we would like our own children to be treated if they were in a foreign country. We have lots of fun/silly times and some more serious conversations. As a homestay mom to teenage girls, I’ve had to have conversations on interesting topics such as: boys, tampons, self-esteem, bullying, narcissism and hygiene, to only name a few.

The main indicator that learning has taken place is change in behaviour, right? Well, we get to witness our international children learning and growing every day. It doesn’t matter if they are with us for a month or a year, the connection doesn’t end the day we drive them to the airport. We have built lifelong relationships that keep on giving (we plan on being proud grand-parents of all our international grand-babies!).

The most rewarding thing you ask… we get to see them grow into amazing successful young adults and hope that we played a little part in it.

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