Homestay Program

Getting started hosting an international student

A colleague at work suggested we consider hosting an international student; she herself had been an international student that was hosted by a family in Canada when she came to attend secondary school. She spoke about her great experiences with her host family and we decided to explore this opportunity, as we live in a comfortable house with available space. We were fortunate to contact Cynthia Zhao, who is the Home Stay Advisor for BRAA. She came to our home, conducted an interview and assessed the suitability for an international student. We thven had an opportunity to discuss expectations and ways to help students adjust to life in Canada.

International Students arrive

In 2019 I was fortunate to have Dian, our first student, arrive and we also had the opportunity to meet her parents who accompanied her to Canada. After being in Canada only three weeks, we celebrated Dian’s birthday and it was a lovely time as we invited some school friends. We adjusted to life with Dian and understanding some of her concerns (the cold weather for example) and a very different school life than she was accustomed too. But it was a good transition and she settled into a comfortable routine.

In 2020 I was asked if I would host another international student and we were again fortunate to have Meichen join our household. As expected, the two young students immediately became good friends and the transition for Meichen was easier as Dian was familiar with the school, life in Canada and our household. We also recently celebrated Meichen’s birthday but because of COVID-19 we had her favourite food and cake at home without guests and enjoyed celebrating.

Watch Homestay Experience
Support from Burlington Royal Arts Academy

As we had never been a host family for international students, there were queries that we had; we found the school to be responsive and always willing to address our questions to ensure good experiences for the students. This was especially the case this past spring with the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. The students are assigned a Guardian, whose role is to advocate for the students and ensure that the transition to life in Canada is a positive. Cynthia was a tremendous help in educating us about some cultural issues and expectations of the students; accordingly she and Rebecca Yuan, BRAA’s International Student Co-ordinator would meet with the students and helped with practical matters (getting phones, bankcards, etc.) and anyv questions they would have about their stay here. This support from the school was a key factor in a good transition for everyone.

Cultural Exchange and the English Language

Canadians value cultural diversity and hosting international students fits well with this. We have very much enjoyed this aspect of being a host family. Although Dian and Meichen studied the English language before they came to Canada, we try to facilitate their oral and written skills in our daily conversation. We have noticed significant improvement and can now understand each other’s humour. They have tried to teach us some Chinese words…but we need to practice much more (smile). We also have invited Dian and Meichen to attend our extended family functions and special events (trips to the Art Gallery, Thanksgiving celebrations, etc.) which both have enjoyed. We try to ensure that they have opportunities to experience Canadian cultural events.

In the course of hosting these two young students, we have grown to appreciate the concerns of teen- agers (issues with fashion and hairstyles…(smile)) and more importantly understanding their cultural heritage; this has been a lot of fun and a great experience for us. For example, we have enjoyed incorporating many Asian recipes into our meal planning, and our kitchen pantry now contains many ingredients to prepare this cuisine. We also learned that teenagers are the same everywhere! Dian and Meichen really enjoy hamburgers and French fries, like most Canadian teenagers (smile).

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Hear what current students have to say about Burlington Royal Arts Academy:

Hello, I’m Veronica. I’m currently studying in Burlington Royal Arts Academy as an International Student. I am willing share my excellent experience of homestay living with you all.  I can still remember when I first came. My homestay mom Lena was always very kind to me. She always explained things to me and answered all my questions patiently. She also told me things I might be interested in so that I could learn lots of new things about life in Canada.We did lots of different kinds of activities together like baking cookies, planting seeds and She took me to different places like Asian Grocery store… Living with Lena is a valuable opportunity to improve my language skills by immersing myself in a situation where communication in English. I feel so lucky to live with Lena and I learned a lot things about local community.

- Veronica
CYNTHIA ZHAO

Homestay Advisor for
International Students

Cynthia was raised in a teacher’s family and she graduated from Nanjing Normal University, China in 1993. She immigrated to Canada together with her husband in 2001. Before she came to Canada, she was an high school ESL teacher in Nanjing Foreign Language School in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province.

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