With 1,200 new international students enrolled at Georgian College this fall the college is looking for places for them to stay.
And not just in traditional rental situations.
The college is encouraging local families to participate in its Homestay program where students expect to learn about life in Canada by experiencing typical Canadian family dynamics, making new friends, and improving 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,” said Tooke. 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.”
Tooke 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.
Tooke said 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.”
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,” explained Maureen. “I get to have new daughters and new sons, from all over the world.”
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.