Pictured above: international student German Eduardo.
When hosting an international student, the culture exchange goes both ways. Just ask the McGuinness family. They’ve been hosting students from the Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District (SD42) International Education program since 2010.
“We really enjoy the experience,” said Tracy McGuinness.
While sharing the experience of being part of a Canadian family, the McGuinness family has learned a lot in return about different cultures from students that they’ve hosted from China, Japan, Mexico and Germany.
Sharing meals together is an important part of the cultural exchange.
“A rule in our house is everyone sits down to dinner and everyone helps clean up, so there is lots of opportunity to talk. That’s a must – that’s how we get to know the students,” added Tracy.
For Tracy, one of the best parts about homestay is the lifelong friendships her family has made with many students and their families.
In fact, just recently, her family had a visit from the first international student they hosted – a young woman from Shanghai who is now studying at UBC.
“You will learn about different cultures but also make family friends, which is the part I really enjoy,” said Tracy.
Maple Ridge residents Joyce and Byron Meston have hosted international students since 2015.
“As homestay parents, we want to be ambassadors for this country. We show them as much of Canada as we can,” said Byron.
That means lots of hiking and exploring lakes and parks in Maple Ridge, and beyond. “There’s no shortage [of outdoor adventures]. It’s unlikely that our students have ever seen a place like this before,” he said.
The Mestons say the experience has been very positive for their children too. “Our kids really look up to them and ask questions about [life] in their respective country,” said Byron. “It’s an open discussion at the table; that’s where the cultural exchange is the biggest benefit.”
“Some call us Mom and Dad,” added Joyce. “We treat them just like we treat our own kids. Each student brings something different. We hope to continue to do this for years to come.”
Tricia McCuaig, vice principal International Education and English Language Learners (ELL), said the homestay family experience is highly valued and is one of the reasons many international students choose to study here.
German Eduardo, a Grade 9 student from Mexico, recently finished a five-month exchange.
“I think it’s a good experience to come and study another language,” said German, who studied at Pitt Meadows Secondary. “It’s very fun.”
Along with the experience of attending a BC high school and meeting new friends, he also had the opportunity to further explore the local culture.
“I’ve been to a hockey game, the Canucks. I have been to Stanley Park to see the totems, and I have been to Victoria and Whistler.”
German say his homestay family made him feel right at home. “They are funny and [they] treat me as if I were their own son.”
The Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District has welcomed elementary and secondary students from 28 different countries for academic and cultural (short term) programs.
To become a host family, some of the basic requirements include:
- A private bedroom with a window and door
- Basic bathroom with toiletry supplies
- Three meals per day with snacks
- Transportation of your student to and from the Vancouver International Airport if necessary
- English is the primary language spoken in the home
Families who wish to host elementary students must also:
- Drive student to and from school
If you are interested in becoming a host family and would like more information, visit http://inted.sd42.ca/become-a-host-family/