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Why host International Students?

May 5, 2017

Who are the people your children cannot wait to come visit? Grandparents? Cousins?

For our children, they are excited to see our international students come “home” for a visit! (Yes, they love to see their cousins and their grandparents, but we live close to both sets of grandparents and some cousins, so it is not as big a highlight.)

Family Slushie pic.jpg

So this week as H&B have finished their academic year at UBC and have a couple weeks before their spring session courses begin, they returned “home” for a visit. We are glad and our kiddos are thrilled! They are dancing like its Christmas again… in May! H&B will get to see a dance recital, watch a couple soccer games, and do all sorts of “big sister” things with their younger “siblings.” Even better, they will get do to this along with our current “big sisters” M&P.

Within the Golden Hills School Division international students are welcomed to come to Alberta, Canada and specifically to rural locations in our area (eg. Three Hills, Strathmore, Drumheller). In some locations, the international students live in a residence (aka dormitory) and in other locations they live in host homes for the ten months of the school year. Host homes are singles or couples or families who volunteer to have a student(s) in their home and are reimbursed for room and board expenses monthly. We are nearing the end of our sixth year of hosting international students through this program and have found it to be a great experience in so many respects.

Why would you host international students?

  • A Global Learning Experience

The students come from various countries of the world, especially Africa, Asia and South America. We believe it is an opportunity local students (as well as the international students), especially in rural communities, the begin their global education. There may not be a lot of diversity in many small towns, but international students at least begins to open young people`s eyes to the various cultures of the world and the reality of the global economy in more than an academic exercise as they interact with people from other cultures in their classrooms.

  • A Global Perspective in our home

Six years ago, our first international homestay student a grade 10 girl from Hong Kong named B arrived. She lived with us for three years. At the time she came, our children were 3, 1 and our third child was due in January, four months after H arrived. Because they grew up with H around, they do not see the places on the map as random names far away. They  know Hong Kong is home for H (and B & M & P). They also know how close it is to Japan where another international student, A, came from.

Not only do they learn the geography, our children also learn the customs and culture of another part(s) of the world. They are introduced to new foods – some they like and others, not so much. We don’t have to go anywhere to receive a rich global education!

  • Language Learning

Especially as our children were pre-school age, it was a great benefit for both the international students for whom English was not a first language. They did not feel as embarrassed (or shy) about their pronunciation or spelling of words as we were helping our children learn words, phrases, present and past tenses, etc. Likewise, our children enjoyed learning along with them and even learned some Cantonese or Mandarin words.

  • Extended Family

H & B both have come “home” for Christmas celebrations over the past two years, even after they began their respective studies at UBC. They enjoyed being around “family,” and it was much more affordable and workable than flying to Hong Kong for just two weeks (especially when Chinese New Year does not coincide with Canadian holidays). And by family, I don`t just mean our nuclear family but also extended family as well as former teachers and friends from high school who were also around over the holidays.

As H nears the end of her time at UBC, we have already been invited to attend graduation next year, regardless of whether her parents are able to fly over. What an honour!

  • “Practice” Teenagers

Another benefit of having international students in your home is you get to practice parenting teenagers, before you do it for real (with your own children). Just kidding… sorta! If you have not dealt with teenagers before it does provide parents with a preliminary look at the different parenting challenges and joys high school students bring in comparison to toddlers or elementary school children. Certainly the level of responsibility is very different, though it does give a taste of some of the drama of the teenage years. Fortunately, my wife served as a dorm parent at a boarding school for teenage girls in India when she was single, so she’s a pro!

Some have shared they would struggle to have their home life and privacy “invaded.” While not without its challenges, we have found the international students are very respectful of your privacy and usually (especially Asians) want a fair bit of time on their own to study and do well in their academics. The student(s) knows the parents are making a substantial sacrifice for him/her to study abroad, so they want to do well. At times, it can be challenging to get them to participate in family activities because they are so committed to academic success.

Dr Yaw Perbi, president of a non-profit organization working with international post-secondary students identifies a number of other reasons we also find beneficial in his book Thinking Outside the Window.

I would strongly encourage anyone – single, married, with or without children, no matter what your lifestage – to consider this opportunity and welcome an international student into your home and your life!

 

 

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