Creating a Global Family: Being a Part of the Homestay Program

March 31, 2022

The Langley School District helps keep our students connected to the local and the global community, and the International Student Program (ISP), is one avenue to achieve this. Every year, the District sees on average 400 to 500 students from around the world attend classes in our schools. These students become a part of our community, and give all of our students an opportunity to grow and learn on a global scale.

Where do these international students live while they stay in Langley? The ISP Homestay program gives some of these students the opportunity to live with a Langley family. “Our diverse group of carefully selected homestay families provide a safe, warm, and welcoming environment for their students. Homestay families open their hearts and homes, allowing students to experience Canadian culture firsthand,” says Mark Leiper, District Principal of ISP.

We spoke with a few of our homestay families and asked them to share how their family has grown and benefited from the program, and provide insight on their lifelong connections with friends from all over.

The Pavel Family:

Can you share some comments about your homestay experience? 

“Our homestay kids brought wonderful experiences to our lives which we otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. Most students are shy when they first start with us. We made it a point to make them feel welcomed by showing them our town when they first arrived, and to take them to our supermarkets and let them pick some foods that they would like to eat. Almost all our students told us that they let their guards down once they know we are genuinely loving them and sharing our lives with them.”

Tell us what you love about being a homestay parent? 

“The rich cultures these students brought to our lives. It’s almost like we’d been to their part of the world when they shared stories and how common we all are in the end. We usually make friends with these students’ families back home too.”

What advice do you have for families considering being a homestay family?

“Opening your house to these international students allows them to first have a room to feel belonged to in the beginning. Allowing them to be part of your family makes your family bigger and more joyful. All these students come with traits that you have not discovered until you treat them as part of your family. When they leave, you will feel a part of you has left too. They may come as strangers in the beginning, but they will be missed as family members in the end. Keep a diary of some sort, we do it on Facebook so we can still look back at our Homestay Photo Album and our “boys” still check back on us even up to this day!”

What benefits have you experienced being a Homestay family? 

“Besides the supplementary income from hosting international students, being homestay parents is a proud occupation. Some of our past students are still in communication with us up to this day. Many have married and have families of their own. We rejoice whenever we see pictures and videos of their newborns via social media. Some of my “boys” flew back in for a visit. We feel proud that we have touched some parts of their lives, and vice versa.”

What benefits do you feel as a homestay family you bring to your international student?

“That not only do they feel protected and safe in a foreign country within your house, but they also learn to be part of our lives. Treat them as part of your family if you truly want to be homestay mom and dad. We always try to image how their parents would feel when their boys are in our home. We want them to feel safe with us that their boys are in good hands and that they’re happy with us. They learn new things everyday through your tutelage and examples, new opportunities to try new foods, going to new shopping areas, mixed with our extended neighbourhood in games, block parties as well as observing with us the different festivities (e.g., Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) and basically be integrated into a whole new family life in Canada as part of our extended family.

I would like to add, that what started out for us to share our big house with some international students because I had a baby and felt bored being a stay-at-home mom 14 years ago, turned out to be a great journey of having many “borrowed” sons. Indeed, come as strangers but leave as friends.”

The Blust Family:

Can you share some comments about your homestay experience? 

“We have been doing the international homestay for 19 years and started the first 11 years in North Vancouver from hosting all ages. Ages 7 to 70. We then moved out here to Langley. We took some time to travel, and we came to the conclusion that we were missing out on the energy that students brought into our home, so we wanted to continue with hosting again. We then hosted teenaged boys and girls for our community high school, Brookswood Secondary, and for the last 8 years now we are still enjoying the experience. “

Tell us what you love about being a homestay parent? 

“We love being host parents. We not only have two great kids of our own ages 17 and 26; we also have many kids that were ours that live all over the world. Having this feeling that we gave those kids a loving and safe home while away from their home and family and sending pictures of new experiences here in Canada to their parents was rewarding to hear that they are enjoying their stay with us.”

What advice do you have for families considering being a homestay family?

“If you are considering doing international homestay and wanting to host, do it with your heart and you will be rewarded by the experience that you will never forget. Be there for them, talk to them, not only will they learn something from us, but you will also learn from them.”

What benefits have you experienced being a homestay family? 

“The benefits are so rewarding especially if you have younger kids of your own. They will learn the most out of this experience. I saw it with my daughter, who grew up with international students from the age of 3 to her 20s. Growing up with so many different cultures and learned to be diverse and non-judgmental to people in her life. Now, she embraces all cultures and respects all people because of what she grew up with.”

What benefits do you feel as a homestay family do you bring to your international student?

“The benefits we give to our homestay students, and I’m sure there are other families that do the same, are giving them the greatest memories of their lifetime here in Canada. Taking them with you when you go to your friends and taking them camping or on a trip. Things they see here is not the same as in their country and taking that memory home with them will be the most rewarding to them and it was all because of you doing it for them. We have taken our students camping, fishing, we traveled by truck and camper all the way to San Diego and back through the Grand Canyon. When those students went home, still to this day we hear how that was the best trip of their life. We still stay in contact with them and hear how they are in college, and some got married, and some have families of their own, we have also had some come back to visit after many years later. If this is something you consider doing, try it, you might love it like we do!”

For more information about our International Student Program and how you can become a homestay parent, please visit the ISP website here.