Alan and Marianna Northeast, homestay parents
Five years ago my wife and I were asked if we would like to take part in the Canadian International Services homestay program by my wife Marianna’s co-worker. We pondered the idea and as many did, thought of the things that could go wrong. We knew nothing of the young adults we would be letting into our home. Were they well-behaved? Would they follow our house rules? Did they speak English? Would they get along and communicate well with our family? All these questions and more plagued us; we were uncertain, afraid of the unknown. We decided to give it a go and try it out; what did we really have to lose?
The first year we got a student, Nao-Hiro Tamura, who we were delighted with right away as this boy was open, spoke English very well, engaged in conversation, and almost immediately was like a member of the family. He happily partook in every one of our family events, shared his stories, and his life with us.
We had his friends from the program over on weekends and some nights, where they could get together with their friends and they all had fun. They spent time at friends’ homes as well, anything to make them comfortable in their stay here.
When Nao-Hiro did not understand something, he was very quick to pull out his pocket mini-translator so he understood everything. We did a host of things together, and even though the time spent here was only two weeks it seemed like a lifetime; then it was time for him to go home.
We have had a few other children every year since; each of the kids has had their own ways, but each was dedicated and had a desire to learn our culture and lifestyle. As with all children they have their own personalities, likes and dislikes, and so we worked with them all, to make their stays as meaningful as possible.
This last year we were very happily surprised when Nao-Hiro, our first student, and his friend Ryo Kowafuna, who is Nao-Hiro’s best friend as well as a student in the same class as Nao-Hiro, decided that for their break before university they wanted to come back and visit us again. We were ecstatic and they both came and spent some time here with us again, this time on their own accord. We spent time together, conversed, and took them sightseeing. It was very pleasant to have them here again; this visit was the ‘cherry on top’ and we will be lifers in this program.
With our participation in this program we have made international friends with the students and their families, and hope to someday see them all again. Every child leaves with an invitation to return at any time in the future to visit alone or with families, we keep in contact with most of them.
It has been a pleasure to be a part of this worthwhile program to introduce young adults from Japan to our way of life, it gives them a perspective and understanding that they would never otherwise get. They all left an indelible mark on our lives. We have found this program to be very fulfilling in our lives and know that we have at least had a small effect on theirs as well.
“I really enjoy the experiences gained in working within the CIS program. The students we teach expand our understandings of our own pedagogy, in working with a cultural background so distinct from our own."
“The program offers students an unforgettable opportunity to see a different part of the world, while developing their English language skills, as they experience Canadian culture through classroom activities, excursions, and interactions with their homestay families.”
"It is very rewarding for me, as an educator, to witness the growth in the students’ language skills over a short intensive period of time. The base of vocabulary they arrive to Canada with serves as a good testament to their English training in their own school system."
"I think the activities that are embedded within the program provide the students a solid means of showing much of the Canadian lifestyle, in terms of day-to-day recreation, but also other features that require the use of larger spaces, that are not as prevalent in their home country. These, in combination with the homestay experiences and dietary differences from home, provide the students with a truly well rounded experience."