The Homestay Experience
The nurturing environment in a host family provides the support and care that students need to focus on their high school programme, achieve great academic results and successfully adjust to their new Canadian lifestyle. This is the preferred option of accommodation for 99% of international students in Canada.
CISS has the strong advantage of having a homestay company that is integrated with our own company.
MLI Homestay ensures that all students placed in our programme have the same standards of care and lifestyle regardless of the location of placement.
* a few select school districts manage their own homestay
Definition of a homestay
Host families are among the most welcoming and generous people in Canada. They open their homes and share their lives to ensure international students are in a secure and stable home environment while integrating into their new Canadian community and school. Host families cannot be described in one "perfect" picture. Just as families around the world vary in their size, arrangements and demographics, so too do CISS host families. What they all have in common is their desire to share the Canadian experience and provide a caring home environment to students from around the world.
Requirements to be a host family
Our internal homestay team (MLI Homestay) screens, interviews and constantly monitors host families to ensure top quality care, safety and comfort for each student. Host families must be willing to provide the care and nurturing that a teen student requires, not just scholastically, but also socially and culturally. An English-speaking home environment (or French where required) is critical to ensuring students see an increase in their linguistic fluency. Families are encouraged to include the student in their daily activities. For an international student, he or she will become a member of their new Canadian family. Building this special relationship requires a openness by both the student and the host family.
Reasons our families decide to be a host
Families choose to host for a wide variety of reasons. Many are proud of their community and want to share this with newcomers or find hosting to be an ideal way for their own children to know more about the world through having international students. Others have grown children and see this as an opportunity to continue to be parents.
We are privileged to be a well-respected company, known for ensuring standards and personal contact with the hosting families. We employ coordinators in each city or region to manage, recruit and monitor the hosts in that area. During the programme, these coordinators closely monitor each student’s well-being through regular home visits and communication with host families. This information is incorporated into the CISS reports which are provided for every student, twice per semester.
Homes in Canada vary in size and composition. All homes are inspected for cleanliness and a nurturing home environment. Cleaning of a home is the responsibility of all family members, as middle class families in Canada do not typically employ a full time housekeeper. Students must expect to assist with chores (ie. Keeping bedroom tidy, cleaning kitchen after meals etc).
A typical home in Canada includes:
- Homes may be large and multi-story, or bungalow style where the main living areas are all on one floor. Homes may be detached, or attached to one other or to multiple homes. Apartments or Condos are also appropriate provided there is sufficient space for the student.
- In smaller towns, families may live on a farm or in a farming community.
- In general, homes in large urban cities are typically smaller (or are apartments) as the density of the city requires smaller residential land plots. Larger homes are more often found in the suburban areas or smaller towns, where more available land allows for larger homes.
What is the typical host family experience?
The homestay experience is wonderful! Students join into the homelife of a Canadian family, and come to see them as their “2nd family”. CISS has had the pleasure of seeing students extend their initial placement on condition that they can remain with their family! We also see many tears shed when it is time to say good. We know that many of our host families stay in touch with students well beyond their high school programme, and have reunited with their students around the world. We hope that all our students can experience such an amazing connection with their host family.
HOST FAMILIES are expected to include the student in their daily family life and make the student feel like a member of their family. It is not realistic that families spend all their time with the student or become a chauffeur to take the student everywhere he/she would like to go, but families are encouraged to interact with the student on a daily basis – especially during meals, and showcase their community.
STUDENTS are expected to interact with the family and do his/her best to become a part of the family and integrate into the family lifestyle. This includes assisting with small household chores, keeping his/her bedroom clean and taking meals with the family – especially dinner and weekend meals. Students are expected to respect and follow all rules and customs of the host family.
What is the screening process?
CISS employs regional homestay coordinators, who recruit the families. New families are often referred by current hosts, or respond to general information sessions. A personal home inspection ensures the home is clean and well-kept, and that there is a suitable private bedroom for the student. Adult family members, under provincial laws, must submit to a police reference check.
Are host families paid?
CISS host families are compensated for hosting a student. We stress, however, that the financial reimbursement is intended to help offset the costs of having another family member. It is never intended to constitute a supplemental income.
Can we select our host family?
Our capable student coordinators and homestay team do their best to review student interests, likes, dislikes, allergies, school placement and activity requests when making the best possible match. We understand that a host family can never replace the student's own family. We know that the host family may have a different composition or background. It is vital to overall success that students and natural parents receive their host family with an open mind and an open heart. Host families are caring people who have chosen to open their homes and share their lives with a student. CISS, therefore, does not typically present a choice of host families, and always monitors the student to ensure that our choice was indeed a good match.
What if my child doesn’t get along with the host family?
Each student is monitored by a CISS coordinator and/or by the regional homestay coordinator. We are in communication with the student on a regular basis, and give students many opportunities to express how well they are settling in with their family, community and school. We encourage and mentor students to overcome differences in culture or lifestyle, and to ride the wave of culture shock and immersion adjustment. We ask students to not be quick to judge their family on differences from their own but to truly give their host family an honest effort. If there is truly no connection between the student and family, or there is a consensus that the match is not ideal, CISS will seek to move the student to a new family. This is done in collaboration with the student, the natural family and the representing agent in the home country, and may take several days or weeks (we do have respite families available for immediate transfer in emergency cases). Our goal is always for a student to feel comfortable, but also to understand and accept the differences that the Canadian lifestyle may present.