September 5, 1996 * Vol . 7, No. 1
Homestay program sets tone for foreign student experience
Staying with a Canadian family is something international students remember
all their lives, says Chris Breedyk, administrative assistant in SFU's international
and exchange student services. IESS staff make that happen by matching new
students up with a host family for their first couple of nights.
This year, the university's homestay program couldn't keep up with requests
for placement. Re-quests from international students for temporary accommodation
were up by a third over last year. About 160 new international students
registered for orientation compared to 112 in 1995. The number of exchange
students who come to SFU through partnership programs with universities
in other countries is also up 71, an increase of 25 per cent over last year.
About 60 per cent of new inter-national students asked for help with temporary
accommodation, Breedyk says. Unfortunately, the centre's list of host families
dwindled from last year and the centre put out a last-minute plea to the
community for host families to help fill the gap.
Many host families volunteer year after year for the program, Breedyk says.
Unlike participants in other homestay programs, they receive no monetary
reward. Often, they drive to Vancouver airport to meet students.
"Certainly, it's an experience the students really look forward to,"
Breedyk says. "They want to stay with a Canadian family. It's something
that really stands out for them and sets the tone for their whole university
She recalls one year when a group of Mexican students arrived with gifts
for their Canadian hosts, full of excitement at the prospects of staying
with a family. They were crestfallen when the centre reluctantly informed
them that, due to a shortage of volunteer families, no space was available.
International students are encouraged to fly to Canada early so they can
take part in orientation before beginning their studies, Breedyk says. Residences
aren't ready to receive new students at that time. Others arrive planning
to look for a place to rent before classes begin. Whatever their situation,
when they touch down at Vancouver airport after a long flight, it's a relief
to see a friendly face greet them and have a place to go to immediately.
Breedyk says host families have told her their part in the program has been
equally rewarding. Many cite the benefits of learning about a new culture
and the satisfaction of introducing someone to life in Canada. Any SFU staff
and faculty interested in hosting new international students don't have
to wait until next September to take part. IESS will also be looking for
home-stay placements over Christmas and New Year. For more information,
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