Hosting an international student in your home is a wonderful way to provide a memorable experience for students and your own family. Much of the success of a homestay is related to how well you can connect with your student and involve them as much as possible (or as much as they want) in Canadian life.

If you’re looking for new ways to connect with your homestay student, keep reading to get our expert advice.

1. Identify their struggles or worries.

The best way to support your students is to be aware of their feelings. Be aware of any struggles or worries they may have and look for ways you can actively alleviate those for them. For example, if your student is homesick, doing a regular video call with their family can provide some support for them.

2. Be good communicators

Communication is essential to ensuring the experience is as enjoyable and educational as possible. Ask your students what they want before thrusting activities upon them. Create an atmosphere where students feel comfortable communicating their needs and wants with you. This will help avoid any miscommunication or feelings of undue obligation.

Remember, your student is speaking English as a second, third or maybe even fourth language. To make sure you and your student understand each other:

  • Be aware of how quickly you speak. Don’t speak down to your student but realize they might want you to occasionally repeat something a bit slower. It’s ok to ask your student if your speaking pace is ok for them.
  • Don’t be afraid to clarify misunderstandings. If you aren’t sure if you understood something your student expressed to you, it’s ok to ask for clarity. Give them permission to do the same so you can make sure you understand each other.
  • If necessary use a translator app. If you and your student can’t have a miscommunication or need more clarity, it’s ok to use a translator app. The goal is for the student to learn English but sometimes using a translator app or dictionary can help you both make sure you understand each other clearly.

3. Show Your Student Around

Go for a walk together around your community shortly after they arrive. If walking isn’t possible, take a drive together and show them around your community and local things to do. Taking trips like this throughout their stay creates great memories and is a wonderful way to connect with your student, especially if they suggest an activity they want to try or someplace they want to go. Let them take the lead as much as possible.

If you live near Vancouver, take them to local favourite places like Granville Island, Whistler, Fort Langley, or Stanley Park.

4. Create family game nights

Games are great ways to connect with family and friends. They’re also great for connecting with your homestay student – if they enjoy games of course. Invite them to participate in some of your family’s favourites and encourage them to share games they play at home with you. These reciprocal experiences (where each person gets to share what’s important to them) can create great life-long memories.

5. Ask them about their Home culture

A terrific way to connect with a student is to ask them about their life and culture back home. Showing a genuine interest in their life back home or family shows them that you also care about learning about life through their eyes. One idea is to create a prompt game where each person draws a prompt from a hat, and then each person shares their answer. For example, “What is your favourite thing about your hometown,” or “What is your favourite food.”

6. Eat together

While it may seem simple, eating at least one meal together every day can be an excellent way to reconnect with your student and your own family. In busy households with school-aged children, dinner can often be the only time you’ll all gather at the table (due to everyone being at work or school during the day). Use this time to share about your day, discuss challenges and successes, and plan upcoming activities or outings.

Plan some Canadian-themed cooking nights. Poutine is a fun and easy one. You could also visit Granville Island for fresh fish, meat, or produce and cook something fresh together.

7. Connect with others

Just as important as connecting with your homestay student, is allowing them opportunities to connect and hang out with others. When they make friends at school, provide them freedom to hang out together after school and on weekends too. Getting to know others in Canada is an important part of experiencing Canadian life.

You could have them invite their school friends for a weekend BBQ or beach day. Providing your student the space to build relationships outside your family is a great way to show them that you care about providing them with a well-rounded experience in Canada.

8. Connect with other homestay families

If you ever need support or want more ideas for how to connect with your student, talking to other homestay families is a great way to get fresh perspective. You can connect with other homestay families in our Facebook Group and learn about how others spend time with their students. This can also be a great place to meet other homestay families you can do joint activities with or get support from others who understand the homestay host experience.

9. Cook together

Many cultures communicate through food. Why not pick one or two nights a week where you cook with your student? You can teach them your family’s favourite recipes, and they can teach you theirs. Bonding over food is universal, no matter where you live. Another fun idea would be having a few close family friends over for a potluck, so your student can sample diverse foods and get to know some neighbours.

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