What if you could experience the world from right here in Nelson, while also sharing the best of Canadian culture with teens from around the globe?
That two-way experience is at the heart of School District 8’s International Program’s Homestays, says program administrator Sandy Prentice, who speaks from experience as a Homestay host herself.
Welcoming students from 16 different countries to the Nelson area since 1999, the ever-growing program means more hosts are always needed. Stays range from just one month to several years, and often families will try a few short-term placements to see if a long-term student would be a good fit.
“We want families who really want their kids to be more internationally aware and will open their family to the student,” Prentice says.
5 things you might not know about SD8’s international Homestays.
- “I was accepted as a family member by my host family.” The key word in any Homestay discussion is family. Students should be welcomed as a member of the family, engaging in the same activities and sharing experiences. At the same time, families should be understanding of the adjustment time a student might need at first.
- The No. 1 benefit Homestay families say the program brings is building international connections. They share their lives – foods, activities, outlook, etc. – with students, but by inviting students to cook favourite meals from home, for example, and share what makes their country unique, families also experience a new culture. It’s not uncommon for host families to be welcomed for a return visit!
- Beyond learning about other cultures, Homestay families often gain a new perspective on their own. “As you see Canada through the eyes of your student, suddenly you don’t take for granted your Canadian heritage and outlook – you’re very, very proud that you’re Canadian,” Prentice says.
- Families and teachers both enjoy the academic benefits the international students bring, from work ethic to a different approach to learning. “It raises the bar for our students,” Prentice says.
- Students arrive in the the community year-round, so Homestays are not limited to September. While the true rewards are in the experience, families receive $850 monthly per student to provide a private bedroom, three meals per day plus snacks and drinks, and airport pick-up and delivery in Castlegar. Students receive an internet account and access at their respective schools.
While the Homestay experience sees many host families return, more families are needed to accommodate the ever-growing program – more than 170 students are expected this year! A good “match” is key, and a comprehensive profile from both student and family helps connect those with similar goals, interests and activities. “If we have a student who specifically wants to ski, we want to match them with a skiing family,” Prentice explains.
Additional supports include orientation programs for new students and homestay families, email newsletters and updates, planned group activities, and medical coverage. Homestay applicants also undergo a Criminal Record Check.
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