This fall, Georgian College will welcome approximately 1,350 new international students across their Barrie, Orangeville, Orillia, Owen Sound and South Georgian Bay campuses. Those students need welcoming places to live. The college is encouraging local families to participate in its Homestay program or to list furnished rental units on places4students.com.
While the college welcomes traditional rentals, students in the Homestay program expect to learn about life in Canada and adjust to their new community with the help of host families. They’re looking to experience typical Canadian family dynamics, make new friends and improve their English.
Tom and Maureen Staples have hosted several international students through the Homestay program. They have seven children, but six are grown and have moved away.
“We were so used to having children around and a full house,” said Maureen. “It was just a no-brainer. I get to have new daughters and new sons, from all over the world.”
The Staples are currently hosting two Georgian students from South America. Aurora Abigail Gavilanes Vargas is a 22-year-old from Quito, Ecuador. She’s working toward a career in international business. Johanna Ogliastri Herrera, a 30-year-old from Bogota, Columbia, is a professional veterinarian hoping to start a sustainable farm. She’s studying environmental technology. Aurora has been staying with the Staples for two years. Johanna has been there for a little over a month.
“I feel like this family is like my culture, we get along very well,” said Aurora, and Johanna agrees. “I haven’t been here too long, but it feels like a year. I like being here. It’s so comfortable.”
Both women are thinking of getting tattoos to mark their Canadian experiences. Aurora is considering a maple leaf, Johanna a white fox or wolf.
“When you make the decision to welcome an international student into your home, you’re giving them a head start on their transition into Canadian life,” explained Marina Tomchak, Georgian international student housing manager. “Students require support, but many host families gain so much more than they give. Some build friendships that last a lifetime.”
Homestay students pay $450 to $850 monthly, depending on which zone the home is in and whether hosts provide meals. Hosts must provide a furnished private bedroom, as well as access to laundry machines, kitchen and bathroom facilities and Wi-Fi. Hosts opting to feed their guests must provide food for three nutritious meals every day.
Anyone interested in becoming a Homestay host should apply at whyihost.canadahomestaynetwork.ca. People with furnished rooms who don’t wish to host can list their rental units on places4students.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Aurora Abigail Gavilanes Vargas (left) and Johanna Ogliastri Herrera (centre) help their Homestay host Maureen Staples (right) prepare breakfast.