When the last of April Ferguson’s three daughters moved out in 2019, the Pitt Meadows resident wondered what she was going to do with the extra space in her home.
So, when she heard School District 42’s International Education program was looking for families in the community to host international students, she was quick to get involved.
“I had the empty bedrooms,” said Ferguson, who lives walking distance to Pitt Meadows Secondary. “A co-worker said, ‘Why don’t you host a student?’ I did some investigating and decided I’d give it a try.”
Fast-forward to today and the family has welcomed a number of students for both short-term and long-term stays, from countries like Japan, Brazil, Germany, Italy, and France. She said becoming a host family has been one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.
“I really like having them around,” she said. “I love seeing the difference from when they come to when they leave.”
Ferguson encourages others who may be thinking about becoming a host family to give the program a shot.
“Try it,” she said. “It may surprise you.”
Sandy Donaldson’s family has hosted international students since 2015. The program has allowed her and her husband to make life-long connections, she said, noting several still keep in touch today.
“If we ever do travel again, we will have a lot of new spots to hit,” said the Maple Ridge resident. “I have these extra children to go and visit.”
While COVID-19 has complicated international travel, both Donaldson and Ferguson said the students they have hosted during the pandemic have been strict about social-distancing and mask-wearing.
In fact, School District 42’s International Education program has been recognized by the Ministry of Education for its comprehensive “Keeping Safe During COVID-19” arrival guide, which includes information on pre-departure and arrival planning, airport and flight best practices, self-isolation protocols and a safety checklist.
“Our host families have found this a valuable resource to ensure the safety of international students,” said Tricia McCuaig, SD42’s principal of International Education and English Language Learners. “To support families, we have also provided regular communication with homestay coordinators and frequent program, school, and district updates.
She added the district has welcomed elementary and secondary students from 28 different countries for academic and cultural programs. Students can stay for as little as a couple months to an entire school year and beyond, and are included in family meals, activities, and outings.
“The homestay family experience is highly valued in our district and is one of the reasons many of our students choose to study with us,” McCuaig added.
Are you interested in welcoming an international student into your home?
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
If you are interested in becoming a host family and would like more information, visit inted.sd42.ca/homestay.