Home-stay is the great adventure of living in another country with a warm and caring family. Students who live in home-stays find their English or French improves dramatically through friendly conversations and daily activities with their families. These family relationships often endure well past the completion of the course, and lead to lifelong friendships.
Host families are carefully selected because of their kind and caring personalities, and for their genuine desire and willingness to open their homes and share their lives and customs with the student. Families are recruited, interviewed, and screened before they are selected as hosts. Many schools have a large base of pre-selected Canadian families to draw from.
The student becomes part of their Canadian family. As a member of the family, the student lives in the family house, follows the family rules, participates in family activities and contributes to the home environment.
"We are learning about communities by living in them. Our host families - whether they're a three-year-old child, or an 80-year-old grandmother - are our teachers as opposed to some textbooks," says Karsten Mündel, Project Supervisor with Canada World Youth.
As Canada is a bilingual country, many times it is possible to request an English, French, or bilingual family as the student's hosts. This is a chance to get a real taste of Canadian living. Families in Canada are defined very broadly. "Some of our families are single-parents, some just single couples with no children, retired folks and then the more traditional families - mother, father, two kids and a dog. We have the full range; it's great to have that diversity," Mündel adds.
A successful homestay experience depends upon open and clear communication. The home-stay family may need to start conversations at first, but as the comfort level grows, talking will become more natural, with everyone contributing equally.
As each family is different, each student undergoes a different home-stay experience. Friendly, enthusiastic students generally create a friendly, positive atmosphere. In these cases, families often include students in social activities and family outings. Some people are always busy and allow the student to lead a more independent social life. Others hosts do most of their socializing at home.
Respect is the most important aspect of a good home-stay. Students always have access to the family telephone, but should ask before making long distance calls. The student's bedroom is often a private space, including a bed, desk and chair, and a bedside table with lamp. A quiet study area for the student is usually provided.
In order for each student to feel as safe as possible during their time in Canada, each family has basic requests that have been pre-approved by the school. But students shouldn't expect a private bath, air conditioning, pool, chauffeuring, laundry service, bilingual assistance, large rooms, or breakfast in bed.
However, if students are uncomfortable or have questions, they have daily access to responsible and concerned adults at the school who will listen when students need to talk and are interested in helping them problem-solve. These mentors provide assistance