Homestay program offers unique opportunity

Homestay is a program administered by the International Department and it provides a home away from home for International students attending Fanshawe College.

We are fortunate to have about 225 active families and presently there are approximately 130 students living with these families. Though our students come from about 44 different countries, the vast majority of students applying for homestay come from China. When asked what they are looking for in a homestay, most are looking for “kind” families who will help them settle into life in Canada. Many also request a home close to the college, but homes may be located anywhere in London, preferably on a bus route.

Canadian families who apply to take a student are given general information first. The next step is to have a police check done for all residents in the home who are 12 years of age or older. Next, a home visit is organized so we can interview the host family and gather photos of the family and the home to send to potential students.

International students take part in one of many events held on campus throughout the school year.

While our Canadian lifestyle is normal for most of us to a student coming from another culture, it can be overwhelming. Often they go through a period of culture shock and adjustment. They tend to miss their families and routines, and most of all, their food. For this reason, a homestay networking meeting is arranged once each semester when all homestay families are invited to attend to learn about other cultures and what they can do to help make the transition easier for their students.

As well, homestay families and students are invited to participate in activities arranged by the International Department such as our BBQs and special events such as Chinese New Year; Thanksgiving and other celebrations as a “family.” When interviewing families, most people say that one reason they want to be involved with this program is the opportunity to learn about the world without having to leave home. They enjoy hearing about their student's life away from Canada and the sharing of culture. They believe that this is a good way for Canadian children to learn about other cultures and to become more tolerant of other people.

On November 5, we had a panel of six international students from various countries attend and all were asked specific questions about their culture and about their homestay experience. There were approximately 45 providers in attendance. In this meeting, we discovered that though there are differences in the cultures, there are actually more similarities.

Other than the English language, food is a big issue but one that can be easily overcome. Our families are willing to try new things and it was suggested by the students that it is better to get involved with food choices and preparation, especially at first.

The homestay families involved in the program help the international students succeed and provide them with a safe, comfortable home. Communication is the key. It is important that the students speak openly and honestly to the providers to express what they need. Families should not be expected to change the way they do things or the foods they eat, but most are willing to include foods that the student will enjoy. It is important for the student to spend time with the family in conversation. The homestay program is an extension of the English as a Second Language program and the student will benefit from daily practice of their English skills. They will be more successful in their classes, at a much faster rate, when they practice outside of school hours.

If there is interaction between the student and the family from the beginning of the homestay arrangement, a family bond often develops and these relationships and memories will last a lifetime. These homes can truly be a home away from home.

If you would like more information, please contact the International Department at Fanshawe College.