So, you’re thinking of hosting an international student in your Canadian home? That’s fantastic! We’ve got many students waiting for a home placement right now. 

Before you commit, know what to expect when hosting an international student in your home. It’s not just about providing a roof over their head. It’s a learning experience for your family and your student and requires your dedication to make it an enjoyable experience for all. 
Here’s what to expect when hosting an international student in Canada.

1. You’re expected to speak English.

For many students, coming to Canada is a chance to practice their English skills. As such, we ask that you speak English in your household. Help your student learn English words by speaking them regularly. 

To help, try putting sticky notes on objects around your home with the English word for the object written on them. It can help your student learn these words. Most students will arrive in your home with at least a basic knowledge and understanding of the language, but this is an immersive experience to help them use their knowledge in context and grow their language skills. 

2. You can host a student for short- or long-term placements.

Not every student will live with you for an entire school year. Some may only come for a couple months before moving to a different host or returning home. When applying to be a homestay host family, consider your family schedule and if you can commit to your student during their stay.

For example, if you’re a snowbird and head to California for the winter months, hosting an international student in Canada over the winter is not ideal, but you can host them for spring and summer stays. If your children are busy with summer sports and activities, you may want to reconsider if you have time to dedicate to a new temporary family member during these busy times. 

3. You’re expected to provide more than accommodation.

Hosting an international student isn’t like running an Airbnb. Yes, providing safe accommodation is essential, but you’re also expected to show them Canadian life. Many international students come to Canada for the authentic experience of living in a new culture.

Introduce them to your culture and routines. Show them your family’s favourite activities. Take them to local attractions, but be sure not to push too much on them at once, as it can be overwhelming. Take their lead and let them choose activities they like doing too.

4. You’re expected to provide a dedicated bedroom.

All homestay hosts are expected to provide a dedicated, private room for their students. This needs to be a safe room with a door, so the student can have privacy. Their bedroom should also include at least one window, a desk, drawers and/or a closet, and a wireless internet connection. 

5. You’re expected to provide meals.

While your student stays with you, you’re expected to provide nutritious meals and snacks. This means breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including meals to take to school. Also provide snacks, and allow your student to spend some of their own money on extra treats they enjoy if they wish. Just be sure to share any rules around snacking and food storage in your home (as per your house rules). 

6. You can (and should) have “house rules.”

You may be tempted to let your homestay student come and go as they please, but it’s in their best interest that you establish a few house rules. These rules keep them safe and encourage them to participate and contribute to family life. Some examples of house rules could include: 

  • Curfew by 9 pm on weeknights, 11 pm on weekends
  • Each family member must help with dishes after dinner
  • All laundry is to be put in laundry baskets for washing
  • Limits on screen time and computer or TV usage
  • Kids help cook at least 1 meal per week
  • No keeping food in your room
  • No shoes worn in the house
  • No alcohol, smoking, or drugs

7. Your student may get homesick.

It is common for the student to feel uneasy about staying with a strange family. They may feel homesick for their own family or way of life at home. Some may feel better after doing a phone or video call with their family back at home. 

Many students will feel less homesick when exposed to routines in their Canadian homes. Establish a daily or weekly routine, so they know what to expect. “Surprises” in their routine can trigger homesickness. Here are some family routines you can adopt (or use your own):

  • Regular movie nights on Fridays
  • Weekly family game night
  • “Kids cook dinner” nights
  • All family members home for dinner together on weeknights
  • “Baking Day” Saturday
  • Personal time (where each family member can engage in a personal passion or activity)

8. You’ll learn about a new culture.

Your student is coming to Canada to learn about life in a new country, but it’ll also be an educational experience for you. We consider it like a cultural exchange: you introduce Canadian living to your students, and they teach you a bit about their home culture. Be open and curious with your students and encourage them to share their homelife with you. 

What can you learn from your student? You might learn how to cook a new traditional dish from their family, a new cultural tradition or belief, or words and phrases in a new language, to name a few. 

9. Host families receive a small stipend.

To thank you for hosting an international student, your homestay company will send you a small stipend. With Harmony Homestay, you earn up to $1050 per month to help cover the extra expenses of hosting a student in your home. 

10. Host family requirements

Host families go through a detailed and thorough interview process to ensure they can provide a safe home for a student and that they understand their responsibilities of being a host. In addition, with Harmony Homestay, we require host families to:

  • Be Canadian citizens
  • Only speak English around your homestay student
  • Provide 3 meals per day, plus snacks
  • Offer a safe home with a private bedroom with a window, bed, desk, drawers, and wireless internet connection 
  • Agree not to leave the student alone overnight 
  • Must provide a criminal record check for all adults in the home 

Interested in hosting an international student in Canada?

We’d love to hear from you. We’re always looking for Canadian families interested in supporting international students in their homes. If you’re interested in learning more, apply to our host family program today

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