A Host Family’s Unforgettable Experience in Canada

If you are planning on studying in Canada, you will come across the term ‘host family’.  If you wonder what a host family is; well the term can be used in two ways.

Some universities and colleges in Canada offer host family places to stay for the international student who is studying at their institution.  Selected families open up their home to the international student.  When looking for accommodations while studying in Canada, this is an excellent option to consider.  The student pays a monthly amount to live with a family where you get a living space and meals and you get to experience the Canadian way of life.  It is also an excellent way to improve your English skills as you will have total English language immersion in class and outside of class.  These accommodations often are more affordable than living in an apartment either on or off campus.  So if you would like to have a ‘family away from home’ while studying in Canada, then you will want to check out the home stay possibilities at your university or college.

But the other ‘host family’ usage I want to talk about is the one that I was part of for many years when I lived in Canada.  International Centres at educational institutions offer a Host Family Program to international students studying in Canada.  Canadian families agree to be a host family to one or more international students.  The student does not live with the family but is part of the family in that you get invited over for dinners, for family birthday parties, for family outings to the cinema, sports events, help you work on your studies, etc.  You become part of the family in many ways.  This is a great way to have a family while studying in Canada, yet have some privacy too.

We were a host family and those times with our students were some of the best experiences we ever had.  When I think about the students we had, I have very fond memories.  Not only do I have fond memories, but I learned so much about my students and who they really are.  I hope their times with us while studying in Canada as as enjoyable for them as it was for me.

Funi was from Swaziland and came to study Rural Economy in Canada.  I remember taking Funi and her son to our farm where she was amazed at our wide open spaces and often under utilised farmland.  She envisioned corn growing where we had only weeds.  She thought we wasted precious land space that could be so productive.  She compared the rich soil of western Canada to the poorer soil of Swaziland and she thought of how her people would love work the rich and fertile lands that we take so much for granted.  I began to see our farmlands and how we worked them through Funi’s eyes.

When she came to study in Canada she brought her little son with her.  (Here daughter only came during holidays.)  Her little son struggled at school because of cultural differences.  His struggle was the basis for our daughter’s thesis for her Master’s degree.  It hurt to see him suffer at school because no one took the time to understand cultural differences.  We really learned to love Funi and Mandela.

Iqbal from Nigeria came to Canada to study as a graduate student.  He was a serious student, yet great fun.  I remember taking him to a Canadian rodeo where he got to enjoy the ‘wild west’ the way it used to be with bucking horses, bull riding and chariot racing.  He went home one summer to get married and brought back two beautiful batik paintings of the Masai people.  They still hang in my living room to this day.

Then there was Anwar and his brother Muhammad from Libya.  Anwar had come to study English in Canada.  We took them to the cinema, they often came for dinner.  We learned about the difficulties the US embargo had put on the ordinary person in Libya.  Anwar had never cooked for himself prior to coming to Canada to study.  He would often phone his mother for recipes.  I would have hated to see his phone bills!  It was a sad day when we had to say good bye when they returned to Libya.

After that experience we opened our doors wide to whomever.  Because I worked at the university I had opportunity to meet many students who came to study in Canada.  Some days our living room looked like the United Nations because our house was often filled with students from Japan, Namibia, Sudan, Germany, France, Iran, Pakistan; you name the country.  Each and every one of them are still precious to me, I will remember them always with the fondest of memories.

So if you want to be part of a Canadian family while studying in Canada, ask the International Centre at your university or college about their Host Family Program.  Get hooked up with a Canadian family.  Both you and the family will be glad you did.  It is an unforgettable experience.

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