This fall, Georgian College expects to welcome approximately 1,200 new international students across its Barrie, Orangeville, Orillia, Owen Sound and South Georgian Bay campuses. These students need friendly places to live. The college is encouraging local families to participate in its Homestay program, or to list furnished rental units on places4students.com.
While the college welcomes traditional rentals, students in the Homestay program expect to learn about life in Canada – and adjust to their new community – with the help of host families. They’re looking to experience typical Canadian family dynamics, make new friends, and improve their English.
Homestay host Lisa Tooke has lived in a few different countries and has also travelled extensively. She’s always looking for new ways to help her two sons experience different cultures.
“We’re not able to travel the world right now so I expose them to different languages, foods and cultures whenever I can,” says Lisa. She’s hosted students from China, Japan, Brazil and Panama over the past four years and said her family has learned so much about their customs, culture and family life.
In turn, her Homestay students have discovered what life in Canada is like from a family perspective. “They’ve seen how I raise my two sons versus how they have been raised, which may be totally different.”
Lisa includes her students in all her family activities. “We’ve gone camping and taken road trips to Manitoulin Island, Tobermory, and through Muskoka to see the fall colours. They’re part of all our celebrations.” She also encourages them to take advantage of the free activities they can tap into in Barrie.
Lisa says she would totally recommend becoming a Homestay host. “We can all learn from others and gain an awareness of different cultures and a broader look at life. You’re sharing your life with a stranger who soon becomes a friend and family member.”
She adds that most students want to be a part of everything Canadian – especially being part of a family unit. “We’ve learned to be patient when English is not their first language, and Google Translate helps a lot when we’re stuck,” she laughs.
Tom and Maureen Staples have also hosted several international students through the Homestay program. They have seven children, but six are grown and have moved away. “We were so used to having children around – and a full house. It was just a no brainer,” explains Maureen. “I get to have new daughters and new sons, from all over the world.”
“When you make the decision to welcome an international student into your home, you’re giving them a head start on their transition into Canadian life,” explains Marina Tomchak, who manages international student housing at Georgian. “Students require support, but many host families gain so much more than they give. Some build friendships that last a lifetime.”
Homestay students pay $600 to $900 monthly, depending on whether hosts provide meals. Hosts must provide a furnished private bedroom, as well as access to laundry machines, kitchen and bathroom facilities, and Wi-Fi. Hosts opting to feed their students must provide food for three nutritious meals every day.
Anyone interested in becoming a Homestay host should apply at whyihost.canadahomestaynetwork.ca. People with furnished rooms who don’t wish to host can list their rental units on places4students.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.