Welcoming a homestay student into your home can be a wonderful experience, but not every student feels comfortable right away. When Canadian families ask how to host international students in Canada, one of the first questions they ask is what to do about student worries or anxiety?
Moving in with a new family can be a culture shock, and it’s not always an easy transition for students. Here are some common student worries and how you can best support your homestay student through them:
Let’s start with the most common one: being homesick. For many students, this may be their first time away from home and their families. Add to that, the culture shock and living with strangers, which can intensify the feeling of missing home.
The first thing to do is not to push your homestay student too much when they arrive. Forcing them into every aspect of their new routines and rules right away can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to ease their transition into your home:
- Don’t throw a big welcome party (wait a few weeks or do a smaller gathering with just your household family)
- Encourage them to call their family when they arrive and as often as they need to feel comfortable.
- Ask your student if there is a comfort or routine from home you can incorporate into your home. Perhaps they have a favourite meal you can cook (this is an excellent way to learn about their culture too).
- Follow their lead. You may have a shy student who would prefer smaller gatherings and activities rather than large events and outings.
Your student may also like to get on a video call with their family and yours so everyone can meet. Seeing the parents acting cordially and friendly with each other can help set their minds at ease.
The student may never have left their country or experienced another culture before. When living with your family, they are fully immersed in Canadian life and your family’s routines, which may be very different from their own family life.
Culture shock may not appear right away. When your student arrives, they’ll likely be full of adrenaline and look enthusiastic. Over the next few days or weeks, their excitement may wane as they get used to a new culture and routines. You might notice them wanting to spend more time alone or just with your family.
This is normal, but here are some ways you can make your student feel at ease:
- Research your student’s culture to bring some of their culture to your home to make them feel comfortable
- Encourage your student to join community activities or clubs based on their interests
- See if they’re open to meditation or mindfulness activities.
- Ensure they have a resource network to contact if they need help (like a school counsellor)
- Maintain clear communication
- Encourage them to keep a journal
- Provide them with healthy foods and encourage hydration
- Ask them about their experience.
Feeling like an outsider at school
Many homestay students usually take a while to feel comfortable at school. This is especially true when they join in the middle of the school year. Introduce them to neighbours who go to the same school. If you know a responsible, friendly kid in their grade or class, ask if they’d show the student around and make them feel welcome.
An essential component of international student homestay programs is learning the local language. When students come to Canada, they likely have a basic understanding of English, but there may still be a language barrier.
If it appears like a language barrier is causing stress or anxiety in your homestay student, here are some ideas to help:
- Get an English tutor (or do daily English lessons together as a family)
- Use sticky notes on objects around the home and write the English word for the object.
- Point to objects as you say their name to help with understanding
- Set aside time every week for your student to teach you a few words in their language (this helps build trust)
Troubles with siblings
If you have your own children in your home, in addition to being a homestay student, conflicts can often arise between kids. This is normal and very common as your children may feel threatened by the student, or your student may feel that you’re favouring your own children instead of supporting them.
Keep an eye on how the children interact with your student. Do your best to make everyone feel like an equal part of the family. Set expectations with your children before the student arrives so they know what’s expected of them.
It can also help to:
- Remind your children they can always feel safe in their own rooms if they need privacy or quiet time
- Encourage your children and students to share their interests and hobbies with the group. Have a weekly game or activity night where each person chooses a group activity for the family.
How to host international students in Canada
If you’re ready for the exciting adventure and challenge of hosting an international student in your home, we’ve got eager students ready. It’s normal to feel a bit nervous as a new host family, especially when managing your student’s worries or anxiety. Prepare yourself and your family in advance, and you’ll be ready.
Don’t forget you can always reach out to your host agency for support if you need it. Harmony Homestay has resources available for you and your student to help ensure their experience is full of joy, learning, and memories.
Contact us today if you’re interested in applying to become a host family in Canada.