The Homestay experience for students at The High School at Vancouver Island University

hello and thank you for joining us for
today’s Facebook live session titled the homestay experience for high school
students my name is Amira GOG and I’m an
international recruitment coordinator at Vancouver Island University specializing
in the high school and the English language Center and I’m joined today on
a panel by Kathryn brazier principal of the high school and Vancouver Island
University and Danielle Jones fruit manager of the homestay and off-campus
housing at Vancouver Island University thank you both for being here
pleasure so homestay is an important part of the study and Canada experience
and as you know many of our students and sometimes parents have a challenging
time understanding what it means to be living with a Canadian family so the
expectations that are placed on the students and the homestay family are the
bulk of questions that we receive as our international recruiters and supporters
of you so today’s session will address some of these concerns in an attempt to
improve the homestay experience for all of our students we’ll start with a ten
minute introduction on the homestay program and then we’ll have around 20
minutes of questions and some scenario questions if you’re watching us live
feel free to send those in on the Facebook live link and we’ll start with
you that sure so our homestay program houses the
University and high school students through viu we have a 171 homestay
families 122 of them have students right now for us a homestay program is based
on four graduate attributes v iu has graduate attributes that we want our
students to learn and grow into as they participate in our programs and so home
state is a learning experience and so we want families to know that it’s focused
on the ability to build respectful relationships an intercultural
perspective to work on their oral communication and for collaboration so
though everything that we do in home say is working towards those graduate
attributes for our students in our program we have 110 families that have
pets and so that is very typical in Canada families that have pets cats dogs
birds are quite popular 61 percent of families have no pets and so those are
considerations if you have allergies to animals are afraid of animals and our
breakdown for our host families is that 58 percent of families are not religious
we’re 42% of them self-identify as participating in a religion and so
homeless Day is about bringing culture into a Nanaimo family’s home and for a
student to engage in the local on and I’m o viu high school and Canadian
culture and so it’s about living with a family following a family’s lifestyle
and household guidelines so you are part of an active part of that family so we
do a expect high school students to participate in that family as well as I
give an age of a student or an adults in that home and so that means
participating in family chores like cleaning your bathroom cleaning your
bedroom cleaning up after dinner and it’s really that lived Canadian
experience and so you’re learning about yes what it is to be Canadian but also
what it is to be that family and so every house is a bit different than how
they operate so we have homestay guidelines and rules for our program and
for the high school but each family operates on their own set of homestay or
household rules of that family it could be anything you
have single moms absolutely we do have single moms we have retired couples we
have couples with families blended families and so really the breakdown of
our families are different and we just heard the stat today on CBC that said
that 78% of Canadians are Caucasian but that doesn’t mean but that is
representative in our program so we do have the diversity that is represented
in Canada so different skin colors different accents different ethnicities
because it is a multicultural country and so each family looks different if I
were to put a page of them in front of you different families it would all look
different and they would all have different experiences lots have traveled
internationally as well and so that’s part of the reason why they’re
participating in this program is because they themselves have been experienced in
international experience and want to host students or they want their
children to be exposed to culture we have a general catchment of 45 minutes
by public transit to the University and so Nanaimo is along the city that
follows the water and so we ask our families to be within 45 minutes and we
try to look at multiple bus routes and so what is the most consistent time
there’s gonna be a few that might be just over that 45 minutes when you take
a bus at a certain time of day and then another time of day it might be way less
than that 45 minutes and so we try to look at that as a general consistency
because our host families actually don’t drive our students everywhere we expect
our host families to teach students how to use public transit and then our
students are to use public transit and so we we want them to have the ability
to access different things in the city and what might seem close to the
University of automat may actually be far in terms of bus so we are trying to
constantly get that cash man but right now it’s
about 45 minutes is why our standard is but there are families that may exceed
that event but then there’s some special arrangements and considerations that we
make with that okay Kathryn can you send us I’m not sure if
you know the statistics on that but how many students we have in the homestay
program something about the countries that they’re from and most importantly
how home state is different for high school students as compared to your
question okay well I’ll start answering that
question but I’m certainly going to turn to Danielle to help fill in some of
those specifics in terms of the diversity at our high school we have a
very diverse internationally internationally diverse population
currently this year we have 24 different countries represented including Canada
in our school and which makes us very very unique in the province so students
are coming from every continent and they come to our school and the thing that I
love is when I look at the students in the school they’re more the same than
they are different they’re all teenagers and they all do understand each other
the in terms of how many countries are represented
I believe there’s about 50 students in homestay and we wrote 13 different
countries represented it in homestay and between the University and the high
school but actually the high school brings us our largest diversity in terms
of international students so we do have students from Uganda and from um and
China Iran and so it does Sierra Leone so it does it does bring and host like
that to see different cultures coming into the program because they learn so
much as well so in terms of how the high school homestay experiences influence
what is some of the extra attention be makes them different for a high school
student versus a university student there’s very definitely much more
supervision and this thing can sometimes be a small disappointment for the high
school students who think that they are escaping parents and coming and having
all kinds of freedom in Canada and one of the first things I tell them is you
may not have your mom and dad here but you have your Canadian mum and that to
me and so it is most important that students are safe and secure and well
looked after in homestay so I ensure that by working very closely with
Danielle we communicate regularly about the homestay situation I also
communicate with positive families if that’s necessary I’ll be usually that
communication goes through Danielle but we are not separate we both work
together to ensure that the experience for
it’s the very best that I can tonight and we recently introduced a that is the thinking behind that in
Nanaimo it’s a smaller city so it is a little bit more difficult to attract
lots of homestay families we have a local school district we have other
independent schools that are all trying to attract the same families for us
because our homestay program is in house we don’t contract out we really work to
ensure the quality control and so attracting families to our program who
are paid a little bit more is one of these strategies that we use and
families don’t come into our homestay program because they get paid more they
come into our homestay program because they know they’re they have much better
support from the school and from the university than other contract at home
state services Danielle puts on all kinds of training
for hosting families specific for the high school I will join in in those as
well so and they have a very rigorous screening process for families coming
into our program and how many actually pass your
screening process and I would say that it’s less than half we get lots of
enquiries this time because we are hosting 5000 University students too and
so we can see over or upwards to over 50 applications at a time and maybe only 10
will make it through to the final stage because it is more than just receiving
an honorarium for housing of student it needs to be a family that’s willing to
bring a student into their household into their daily lives and so it is a
four stage process they have to fill out an online application and then we vet
based on a number of things which includes transit and we look very
seriously at that then they have to do a home interview and a home inspection
where we go look at the room we look at egress needs so that’s firing safety
name so smoke detectors we measure windows we talk about fire safety
earthquake safety and then we have an interview questionnaire about why does
someone want to host a student what kind of challenges may they experience how
will they enforce household rules what are they hoping to gain from an
experience like this and then if they’re successful through that process they’re
invited to a three-hour required training which we will it’s quite
rigorous which will then be required every three years and then it was gonna
be like this me do it regularly yes sufficient and then
we have these ongoing training sessions we offer about six per year and so we’re
seeing that their host is having a challenge or we will ask them a request
to go to one of the training sessions and we have our faculty from the English
language center develop sessions we have Katherine that’s helped develop sessions
that they’re targeted at the specific needs of the students and our focus
because we are University in high school based program and we’re in-house is
about learning we want our host to learn and we want our students to win so that
is where our heart is coming from whenever we’re talking about a challenge
and a home is about what are we going to be learning from this process because
there’s usually always two sides to a story and what I always say is what may
be normal to us may only be cultural and that’s for your student as well what
might be normal to them may only be something cultural and so oftentimes
there’s a lot of conversation that needs to be happening around that thank you so
I was gonna reflect on the close relationship over to you Helen and I
think you just said so I’m gonna move to Danielle and ask ask you to talk about
the award ceremony that you had recently you didn’t know that yesterday and just
I liked what it means to have a certain family
yeah it’s quite incredible it was about two weeks ago that we had our long-term
service reception for host families achieving different milestones within
our program all the way just starting at five years to 30 plus years we had two
families that were over 30 years of experience and even just to see the
pride on their face receiving something from the University and we see them as a
viu community member is so an extension so therefore like there are rules within
value that applied to homestay homes as well but just people being very proud to
be part of a homestay community because I take that role very seriously and they
take that role of offering up their home seriously and may look different for
every host and we honored a hundred and thirty of a hundred and seventy one for
hitting on a milestone this year because it was our first one and so just to see
the attendance we host events all the time and every single person who RSVP’d
arrived and then some and so that speaks to the commitment that these folks have
and the desire to be part of this community so for us it was kind of that
incredible moment of oh this is something that’s pretty special and as a
university and on high school we get to do this and that was for me a good
milestone moments and so we hope to be doing that regularly and what they
receive is just a recognition it’s a certificate plaque for what they’ve done
and then they continue to keep posting because there’s a lot that goes into it
we always say – it’s not just about the financial component if we were to
actually break down the cost of food the cost of utility is the cost of all those
things 850 or 925 a month wouldn’t cut it in the rental market that we have and
it is a host are doing this more for that experience
yes it’s nice to receive extra for having to prepare additional meals are
having more laundry going in the home or extra utility is happening but they
really have to want to do this because it’s beyond it’s it’s it’s a desire and
that’s why we keep talking about it as an experience and so oftentimes you
might be thinking oh this is just a place to live I can’t be the Canadian
bum if I’m not the custodial man it’s actually having me as the custodian
ensures that there is more consistency in safety and also consistency in rules
students wanting to go visit other locations maybe wanting to go overnight
to Vancouver if the homestay host was a custodian I
would likely be in a situation where one student gets to go to Vancouver with
them any hassle and another student may not be able to go at all
so I am the I am the custodian and all students who want to leave Nanaimo for
the day or I have to get permission from me that
allows me to really go through their plans ensure that it’s a safe trip that
they are properly supervised so I don’t ever let a 15 year old go overnight to
Vancouver unless there is a responsible adult that I have connected with who
will be supervising them that makes some of them a little bit sad but they learn
how do you manage that one of the questions I ask them often in situations
like that is in your own country if you wanted to do this by yourself
would your parents say yes usually the answer is no they wouldn’t that’s why
I’m saying no to something but they do get lots of opportunities to go away for
the day to go shopping to you other but with me being the custodian I am assured
that safety plans are in place that they are well supervised and then they’re not
doing okay okay so that’s giving some scenario
questions sure right so my first one is I would like to choose the family and up
list and we often get this request from families and once tonight I’m in the
religious or cultural background and so we generally do not place students on
the same cultural background with a host of the same cultural background because
again it’s about the learning experience we do have a profile but the student is
to fill out when they apply to the high school that asks some very detailed
questions about things they like or dislike including any preferences or
religious or health or any dietary preference and so we do want you to be
as open and clear about those because our philosophy is trying to create the
best possible match although we cannot take all considerations in to play
because it’s about what we have in our program and as I said we have 171 hosts
and so for us it’s filling out the application we may ask some more
questions but we generally if you were to say to me I would like to be with
someone who speaks Mandarin as a second language and I speak Mandarin we would
say unfortunately that’s not the philosophy of our program and so we
would clarify those things right up front with whether it’s the student the
parent the agent whoever’s in that circle of communication right from the
get-go so that would also go in terms of she was Indian
yes we cannot do that on one of the things is that would be a violation of
Human Rights to select based on those types of things we have already screamed
our host to be active participants in our program and so we look at the
profile and what the host has the profile so we look at the the structure
of the family the kids the busyness of the family sometimes what has the
student selected as a priority diet so if someone said that they required a
vegetarian diet we only have a select amount of hosts that we would be able to
place that student with so that brings down the pool of what is available so
it’s important so what is the most important to your son or daughter is
going to be the thing that you should be trying to reflect and we try to take
some of our preferences into consideration okay Katherine one for you
my older brother is a student at V I knew before my on tomorrow can I live
with them if I’m a student at the high school hmm
so I get questions like that fairly regularly there’s no one response to
that it really is a case-by-case one of the reasons okay so I am the custodian
and one of my rules is that any student for whom the find the custodian
must stay in the VIU Wednesday and I say that because it’s the only way that I
can ensure safety and to communication about what is happening for the student
where everything is okay if a student has a request to live with a family
member generally the answer will be only if
they can be the custodian for your son or daughter
and in order to be a custodian you must be a Canadian citizen at least 25 years
of age or a permanent resident at least 25 years of age the 25 years is pretty
much a non-negotiable for me anyway and yeah so if if that family member
meets that criteria then yes but the family needs to understand that then I
am NOT responsible for the student safety side of outside of school they
have asked their family member to do that so in the instance where when the
student for high school is applying for there’s only limits would that rather be
filling that customer yes which you guarantee for yes my next scenario
question what about I have nothing to do on the evenings and weekends
and my homestay families don’t take me anywhere oh my goodness I’ve never heard
that word well one of the things I want people to be aware of is every homestay
family is different we do not have an expectation that homestay host program
or run activities for their students we encourage them to involve them and their
family day to day life some student to some host of soccer practice and hockey
practice and while your practice and they are going to and from different
activities and will invite students to go along with those activities that I
includes weekly things like groceries some will do camping trips or some will
go to Victoria but it really varies we encourage the student to talk to the
host about what they are hoping for in their home state because hosts cannot
read minds because remember what may be normal to us may only be cultural and
sometimes speaking for what you’re hoping for will help but as I said it is
not the host family’s responsibility to program different activities or
showcasing the island we encourage it but it’s not that requirement we do have
a lot of different things campus through the faculty of
international education that students can sign up for the different day trips
they would have to have permission from the custodian to participate but they
are facilitated by staff so they’re well curated and focused and programmed and
safe and there’s a lot of safety pieces put into that so we would encourage
students to plan financially to have some extra funds to be able to
participate in those things and that includes if they are to go on family
trips because we wouldn’t expect a host family to purchase a lift ticket for a
student at Mount Batson or to purchase an airline ticket pay for hotel rooms or
that type of thing yeah and so it is really dependent on the
family and so we encourage right from the beginning that that student starts
to have that conversation of like what are they hoping to see because a lot of
hosts are open to talking about that they often tend to just don’t know
because it homestay is about living their life and including that student in
it and so oftentimes it’s not going to be like what does Amira wants to do
today I want to make sure that I’m doing an activity for a mirror let me guess
let me go and I need to bring it back we need to also talk about what is the
purpose of the student being in here and they’re here on a study permit not
on a tourist visa and while the whole experience as Danielle was saying is you
know they want to experience some of the things the core purpose of being here is
the studies and so at school they are doing their coursework they’re moving
towards the graduation there are also other activities that happen in school
that are in the fun realm and there are optional trips and that kind of kind of
thing so all of the suggestions that Danielle made about accessing there’s
community recreation centers that have programs the university has programs
there is a lot for a student who has the curiosity to mass we do encourage that
asking yeah so I have one more scenario question do we have enough time yeah
okay all right so let’s go with the last one and then we’ll do the quick wrap-up
okay there isn’t enough food at my home state my ministry mom does not cook and
I do not know how to cook I’m always hungry or spending my pocket money on
food time well you and so it is a conversation there’s also
the homestay office which we can help navigate those conversations but we’ll
always ask a lot of detailed questions around food because it’s often mostly
misunderstood relationship with food culture in Canada and so breakfast lunch
and dinner are very different tools then it’s not a big sometimes family meal at
breakfast they may just be grabbing a piece of toast or cereal and fruit and
heading off to school or the family may eat together again
it’s very different family to family and we can also ask questions as parents to
how to coach your student to ask questions because these are people’s
homes and they’re receptive to they want to please a student but they have to
hear from the student what that looks like no I think Daniels said that really well
I know this may be just one thing is that we have what’s called a food
studies course at the high school and I do my very best to get every single
student through that course at least once a day any grade 11 level and in
that course students get to experience all the different range of foods from
different countries but if they each had an opportunity to share their their
favorite food as well as Canadian food so we do our best to expose them to nine
different kinds of food sometimes they go okay this is really
and I like this more than Pizza yeah all right excellent so I’d like to thank
both cubed at ya I’m Katherine for joining us today and a special thanks to
our MPA interns Jason and mom who are running the show behind the scenes will
prepare a transcript of today’s session and I’ll put that on the high school
website so you can check there for any responses and if you have any other
questions you can contact us on [email protected] Thank you again for
joining us and good bye.

Stephen Childs

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