District Highlights

Host family attends international homestay student’s graduation in Germany

German student Pauline took Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District’s international education program in 2021 and lived with the Zanotto family as part of the homestay program.

Two years later and an ocean apart, they still talk every day.

“She spent a lot of time with us and we got really close,” said Sara Zanotto. “When she’s here, she’s not a guest – she just lives here. I don’t know, it just feels like home.”

“Basically another kid,” added her husband, Chris.

For their two children, Bella and Maxéa, Pauline was like an older sister.

“It just became normal and then when she left, it was like, where is she? And it [was] not normal,” said Bella, who is in Grade 6.

Pauline enjoyed her time in Pitt Meadows so much, she came back the following summer in 2022 to visit.

“She still had one more year to do and she’s like, ‘it’d be cool if you came to my graduation,’” Sara said. “Chris and I kind of talked about it and we decided if we did a lot of overtime and worked really hard, we could take our family there.”

So in June this year, the Zanottos packed their bags and went on their first trip overseas as a family.

They had never met the rest of Pauline’s family in person, Sara explained, so they were feeling a little nervous.

“But as soon as we got there, it was like su casa es mi casa,” said Chris.

Pauline on the stage at her high school graduation ceremony in Germany with a heart drawn around her.

“It was really emotional for me because I missed her so much,” said Maxéa, who is in Grade 3.

Watching Pauline finally cross the stage at graduation was another emotional moment for the Pitt Meadows family.

“Oh, I bawled, of course,” said Sara.

“Like I said, she was like a kid to me, right?” Chis said. “My own kid.”

“She’s our family,” Sara added.

During their time there, they were also able to catch up with Tabea, another one of their homestay students who lives in Germany.

It is stories like this that are at the heart of the homestay program, according to Tricia McCuaig, international education principal with SD42.

“It’s really what the ultimate goal of the program is,” she explained. “Finding that connection with a person and deepening an understanding of what it’s like to live in other places in the world.”

Hearing about the Zanotto family’s trip and seeing photos brought so much joy to the international education team, McCuaig said.

“To see it transpire where we get feedback from the host family saying this is why we do this, we do this for the connection, we do it for the relationships – it just supports everything that we do and everything we believe in in international education,” she said.

The district’s homestay program allows local families to experience another culture and in cases like this one, make a connection that could last a lifetime.

“It’s just so crazy that we didn’t know her at all and now she’s one of us,” Sara said. “Every single one of our friends and our family, when I say Pauline, they know who that is.”

“Yeah, she sends us Christmas gifts,” Chris said.

“And we send things back,” Sara added.

To learn more about becoming a homestay family and hosting an international student, click here.

The Zanotto family sits at a table with Tabea and Pauline, two of their homestay students, in Germany.

The Zanotto family with Tabea and Pauline, two of their homestay students, in Germany.

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