Homestay is an essential and important cornerstone of international student programs since Homestay provides a “home away from home.” Homestay offers a caring, comfortable and supportive environment for international students attending Ontario public schools. Students who live with a Homestay family become part of a typical Canadian family, develop conversational language skills, and experience Canadian culture first hand.
Homestay is organized “in house” through school board staff or through an agency that works with a school board to provide Homestay services. Homestay agencies are generally well established and have extensive experience in working with the school boards, international students, and host families.
In most cases, international students are assigned a Homestay representative who works for the school board or homestay agency and liaises with the student and host family, and often with the schools as well. There is usually 24 hour/7 day availability for students who many wish to contact the Homestay agency.
Homestay has clearly outlined procedures in place to provide a variety of services to support international students. All member school boards of OASDI follow the Canadian Association of Public Schools- International (CAPS-I) Standards of Practice and follow specific protocols and guidelines related to:
- duty of care and support for the needs of students
- selection and obligations of homestay families
- communication processes
- clear statements of expectations
- monitoring of host families
- on-going Homestay support
There are so many benefits to living with a Canadian family. International students in a homestay family have the following advantages, to name a few:
- a safe, caring and supportive home life
- an opportunity to practice speaking English (or French, if requested) daily
- access to a family that is a member of the local community who knows answers to the many questions which will help the new student adapt to living in Canada and a different school system
- experience the broad cultural diversity within Canada’s population and the Canadian lifestyle
- make new and important friendships that often last a lifetime
Every effort is made to place international students in an appropriate homestay through a process of information gathering to match international students with a compatible family. In all cases, the homestay family is thoroughly screened and expected to:
- provide an inviting, friendly and caring living environment
- provide 3 healthy meals and snacks each day
- a private furnished bedroom with a study area
- offer advice, support, guidance and encouragement
- invite the student to participate in family life and community events
To be selected as a homestay family, many processes are in place to ensure international students will be safe and be supported in a homestay family. Homestay families must meet the following criteria:
- willingness to accept an international student as a member of the family
- speak English (or French, if requested) as the primary language in the home
- complete thorough reference check process
- pass a Criminal Record reference check
- follow protocols and requirements of being a Homestay family
- interest in learning about other cultures
Once an international student’s homestay application has been processed, international students and their families will be provided with contact information for the homestay family in Ontario and also receive an orientation package of information about homestay.
As an International student, you can prepare for your new homestay in several ways:
- It is important to give yourself time to adjust to your homestay family and time for them to adjust to you. In this regard, it is really important to try to be open-minded and not make judgements too quickly. Most students adapt to their new living arrangements after a few days.
- It can be difficult to cope with all the changes at first. There will definitely be changes in household routines and then there are all the changes in attending a new school in another country. This can be very exciting because it is so different than your home, but all the changes can also be a bit overwhelming. There will be differences in food and weather, and just in the ways Canadians do things. You will probably need to be more independent than in your home country and you need to be “pro-active” in asking questions and letting your host family know about any concerns or problems you encounter.
- Your host family is not the same as your family. Like all families, Homestay families are all different. Canada is a very diverse country in its landscape, but also in its people and the way they live. There are differences among homestay families in terms of ethnic background, race, religion, and cultural heritage. The family structures are just as varied from traditional families where one parent stays home to raise the children, to single parents raising their children, to both parents working, to your host parents being retirees. You may find yourself in a house with several children of the host parents, or you may be with a couple of other international students in the same household. Some families have very active lifestyles and are involved in local community activities or sports, whereas other households may be less busy. There will also be differences depending upon whether your host family lives in a city or in the countryside. Regardless of the many possible differences, the homestay family is committed to providing a supportive, enriching and memorable experience while you are studying in Ontario.
Need more information on Homestay?
Each Ontario school board that accepts international students is responsible for Homestay; therefore, it is necessary for you visit the relevant school board website. Please visit our District List to obtain more information from our member school boards.