HOST INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS FOR THE EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME
Hosting international students and becoming a Homestay Canadian host family was one of the best experiences we have ever had.
We had such an amazing student from Spain the first time that we went on to host 7 other students before our son was born.
What I hope to convey today in this post is how important host families in Canada are and the benefits of becoming a homestay host family.
Although we started the experience for extra cash to add income to our monthly budget it ended up being far more than just financial gains for us.
In total we earned over $6000 cash from becoming a host family which turned into SO much more as you will read below.
Homestay around the world programs are a great way to get your child involved with different cultures which allows them to immerse themselves into new experiences.
It begins as a home stay home and ends with a home sweet home and I only say this because out of the 8 international homestay students we hosted in our home almost all wanted to stay.
Moving to Canada from the UK
As an immigrant living in Canada even visiting here from the UK was a bit of a culture shock from the Canadian accents to the fast pace of life in the big cities.
I’m a small village boy with few close friends and when I landed in Canada at Toronto Pearson Airport back in 2005 I was overwhelmed with joy and curiosity about life outside the arrival doors.
Living with a homestay family is the best way for these international students to get a taste of Canadian life sort of what I did while I was dating my wife.
There was a point where I stayed in Canada for 4 months so I could have a look around, learn to drive on Canadian roads and to understand the culture.
It was well worth it and I’d do it all over again if I could rather than just moving here straight from the UK as that is a stressful enough process.
Fast forward to us buying our first home together as husband and wife who were looking for ways to earn extra income to help fund the renovations that we planned to do.
Red Leaf Canada Host Family
To be honest we kind of fell into the Red Leaf Canada program after reading an ad on Kijiji for our city in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
There was this company called Red Leaf looking for host families for international students from Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan and China.
We had no idea what the compensation was going to be like but Mrs. CBB responded to the ad where she corresponded with someone from Red Leaf.
From there it turned into a phone call which led to a home visit and then a trek to the police station to pick up our police criminal record check (PCRC) to present to Red Leaf.
Our First Homestay Student
Ta-da we were now a Red Leaf Host Family with no kids and a dog awaiting the arrival of our first student, a 17-year-old girl from Spain.
Since we had two bedrooms available upstairs we picked the biggest one for her which boasts a 4 post bed that is 3 feet off the ground with luxury bedding.
The windows are wide-spread throughout the room which brings in lots of light and there are empty dressers and a large closet for clothing and accessories.
Next to the bedroom is a full bathroom that the homestay student can use all to herself which was great because there was no waiting for bathroom time.
The homestay students LOVED that idea however almost all of the products they brought over ended up staying here because they needed the space for all of the new stuff they bought.
They were quite smart when it came to paying extra for luggage fees and even weighed their luggage before going back to the airport. We ended up buying a scale for this purpose since it is very helpful for the students.
To be fair we only hosted girls which wasn’t by choice, it was just the way it went for us and girls like to take FOREVER to get ready. Just saying…ha!
Since we had two bedroom that allowed us to have two host students but they must not speak the same international language only because we were to only speak English in the home.
That meant the homestay students had to speak English which forces them to learn our language which is in part why they come to Canada.
To be transparent we did not ever host two students at once but we did overlap with two from Germany for one week only because of a missed flight.
That was an error on the students part but the parents sorted it out with us with no problems at all.
Each student we hosted would stay with us at least one month some only two weeks depending on the Red Leaf program they were participating in.
Red Leaf offers many types of international programs in Canada from a mini-stay to a High School Experience stay.
Host family Anxiety
I anticipated the arrival of our first student to the point where I understood how Mrs. CBB felt when she was awaiting my first arrival in Canada.
You want to show them everything and anything you can about Canada and the culture here from the fast-food restaurants, local beaches to historic venues around the city along with a trip to Niagara Falls and downtown Toronto.
It can be overwhelming as a first time host family because you don’t know what to expect even if you are told what to expect.
There was some anxiety hanging around our emotions but it went away by the second day.
We found the Red Leaf program very enriching because not only were we showing our international student the way of life in Canada but we were learning about their culture.
Once at our house we let the homestay students tour the house and property including their bedroom and bathroom.
The first night is tough as the kids are very tired from jet lag so we just let them rest until the next day.
The hard part is usually that next day they are up and have to be ready for school pickup or to take the city bus to their destination.
One of the provisions as a host family back when we did it was that we needed to show them how to use the city bus.
They were given a one month bus pass by Red Leaf and I would go with them a couple of times until they got the hang of it.
I was already a city bus rock star since I had to take it when I went back to school in Canada.
After that our homestay students were fine on the bus and with-in days independent from getting ready, making meals and starting their day.
At times it was tough because of the language barriers but with Google translator and almost all students having some level of understanding and speaking the English language it wasn’t bad at all.
One fascinating thing we learned from our Spanish students was that they eat their biggest meals at breakfast and lunch followed by a small snack at dinner.
Both Mrs. CBB and I joked that we were either going to lose weight with our students here or gain it, one or the other.
In Canada they were shocked how we do the opposite which meant come dinner time the homestay students from Spain weren’t as hungry.
Now, the homestay students from Japan, China and Germany were far different as they loved to eat any time of the day.
There were many times the homestay students would cook for us something special from their culture and we’d do the same.
Do you remember our Spanish Potato Tortilla?
That was from a Spanish student of ours who told us it was tradition in Spain so we all made it together.
One of our students would send photos home of all the meals we prepared and she was just so in love with Canada and our way of life.
It was fascinating to see the smiles and excitement on all of our homestay students faces.
Oh, and we even had one of our students help us to make our first ever batch of homemade crab apple jelly.
That year our tree was filled with crab apples and our German student wanted to help pick them and make the jam, so we did it. I gave her a jar to take home to her family so she could show them what she did.
Role of the Canadian Homestay Hosts
We would get a chuckle when the kids would talk to their parents and call us their host mom or host dad but in essence that’s what we were for a month.
Our role as a Canadian host family was to provide 3 meals a day, bedroom, bathroom and to integrate the homestay student into our way of life.
Ideally you will want to take them shopping, on excursions and to do the things your family does on a regular basis like grocery shopping.
Boy oh boy did the homestay students LOVE the grocery store. One of our girls had a fascination with bagels and cream cheese and bags of Christie chocolate chip cookies.
Another was a must-have Nutella type of girl.We took them grocery shopping so they could see what we had in our Canadian Grocery Stores.
We also allowed them to pick out treats for their breakfast and lunch that they wanted which they enjoyed doing.
At home the homestay students prepared their own breakfast and lunch with foods we bought and dinner was provided by us.
Sometimes we went out to eat at fast food restaurants such as Tim Horton’s.
I’m pretty sure they heard all about our famous Canadian coffee and donuts because they devoured them.
I can understand because I pretty much did the same as did my parents. We’re big Boston Cream Donut fans in our British family.
Almost all of our homestay students wanted to hang out with the other international students after school at the mall or downtown which meant they would call us to say they weren’t coming home for dinner.
We were fine with that and it was allowed by Red Leaf Canada but they had to call and abide by the curfew set out by Red Leaf and the family.
If we had to go out to find them or alert Red Leaf that they did not show on time there were consequences for the students. Not once did we have any problems with any of our students.
Homestay Students Education and Exploration of Canada
Throughout the month the students would go on trips to see Niagara Falls, Downtown Toronto and even Wonderland as well learn English 5 days a week at the University or local colleges and high schools in the area.
At the end of the month there would be a gathering with all of the homestay students and Canadian host families where we’d either have a big pot-luck picnic or a concert put on by the kids with lots of food and desserts.
Every one of our homestay students presented us with gifts of gratitude from their home country and sometimes even on departure they would gift us something.
They didn’t have to do this but they were so overwhelmed with our help and generosity as a host family that they said they wanted to do it.
Friends for life
With each homestay student we learned more about becoming a better host family so we’d be prepared for the next one. Not one of our end reviews by the students were bad and we still communicate with all of our homestay students via Facebook.
Just recently our first homestay students who was 17 at the time has become a doctor and we couldn’t be more proud of her journey.
The best part is we have told all of our students that if they ever come back to Ontario that they are more than welcome to stay at our house and they offered the same if we go to their country.
Becoming a Red Leaf host in Canada started as a way of earning extra money but ended with us building new relationships and experiences that would last a life-time.
We haven’t hosted a students in 4 years but plan to once our son is a bit older so he can be part of the process with us. I highly recommend becoming a host family if you’ve considered it and if you haven’t but are thinking about it now give it a shot.
What is Red Leaf Canada?
Since all we know is Red Leaf Canada we thought we’d share with you as much as we know about their hosting platform. Keep in mind there are other programs and companies in Canada that do host international students and are looking for host families besides Red Leaf.
Red Leaf was born in 1986 with a clear goal: meet the needs of those seeking language training and life-altering experiences both in Canada and in Spain.
For that reason, Red Leaf has always had offices both in Madrid and Greater Toronto Area. Our office in China has now joined this joint venture.
Red Leaf has been a proud member of Languages Canada since its foundation in 2008 and a proud member of ASEPROCE since 1997.
All members of these two associations share the common goal of promoting quality and professionalism on multicultural experiences and safe-keeping students’ interests, defending core values such as high-quality, flexibility, teamwork, open communication and preparation for the future.
Types of Red Leaf Programs in Canada
More than 30,000 juniors and adults have already taken part in one of our specially designed programs.
Red Leaf supports talent development and understands that being fluent in more than one language is of utmost importance for everyone who wants to have his or her best chance at success in a global world.
We offer learning opportunities for everybody, starting with summer or mini-stay programs for the youngest to immersion and volunteering experiences for the adults.
All our programs use ESL or FSL as a tool to develop many other personal skills. Language training is no longer the one and only goal!
- Academic Year Program – For students wishing to fully integrate into Canadian school life
- High School Experience Short Stay – For students wishing to get a taste of Canadian high school life
- Mini Stay – For school groups wishing to experience Canadian school life. Ideal for bilingual schools!
- Mini Rez – For school groups wishing to experience Canadian school life while sharing residence life and activities together. Ideal for bilingual schools
- Mini Mansion – For school groups wishing to experience Canadian school life while sharing residence life and activities together. Ideal for bilingual schools
- Ace Program – Suited to school groups looking for fun and meaningful experiential learning.
- Cottage Life – A fun and intensive program designed for quick progression in English
- 4 to 1 – Fun and intensive program that combines lessons and activities
- English and Homestay Summer – An ideal first trip to Canada!
- English and Residence – Live and learn English at one of Canada’s prestigious universities
- Total Immersion Summer – Ideal for teens wishing to directly experience authentic Canadian family life
- Volunteering Program – An unforgettable cultural experience, while learning English!
You can read about all of the above in their which help familiarize yourself with in-depth details. Red Leaf Canada 2019 Program Guide
How to become a host family in Canada
If you don’t mind sharing your house and knowledge about Canada you may be the right fit for becoming a host family to international students.
YES, you get paid to be a host family anywhere from $500-800 a month which is non-taxable money so you don’t have to claim it. The money you do earn is to go towards buying groceries, accommodations and to pay for any extra activities you do as a family.
I can’t speak for every homestay program in Canada but we went with Red Leaf Canada which I will talk about today and highly recommend.
Once you apply online to become a Red Leaf host a representative will arrange to come to your homestay house for a home visit and to see if you are a fit for their program.
They will want to see your spare room for the homestay student, bathroom, kitchen and living space because they want to make sure it is clean, tidy and host-friendly.
It also helps them to pair you with the right students as some have allergies to pets and some are vegetarian.
We actually had one girl who was a vegetarian so we commited to one month of eating her way and we learned that we love meat but it was a great experience to give it a try.
In chatting with you they may want to know what a typical day in your life is like to get a sense of whether you would bring the student out to learn about our culture.
They aren’t looking for people who want to earn fast cash and not care about the students. It’s important to understand how critical it is to have a host family that participates.
Once you have your police record check verified and handed in they either approve you as a host family or deny you.
There are always shortages for host families as students come throughout the year and not just during the summer months.
Some students stay for the entire year and need a host family for the full duration. Since our son was born we’ve had about 3 phones calls where they were desperate for host families but we have been unable to open our home quite yet.
Living with a Canadian family is one of the best ways to get a true feel for Canadian life. It allows students to become a member of the family and the community, participating in daily activities while improving their English attending school, classes or at a Summer Camp.
As a Red Leaf host family you can give an international student this experience. It is a unique, enriching adventure, not just for your own family but also for the new son or daughter you take on for the duration.
You will create international ties and bonds that last a lifetime. Your family will represent Canada on an international scale, sharing the beauty of your own home and give an insight into our amazing culture with an international student.
What’s more, the feeling is reciprocated – you’ll be able to learn from the student you host – about a whole new culture and lifestyle, completely different to your own.
As a Host Family, you’ll have the opportunity to become a part of this student’s life, providing him or her with a home away from home. With you as a family, he/she can see what it’s like to live as a true Canadian family and take part in an experience of a lifetime. Source: Red Leaf Canada- Become A Host
Overall Experience as a Canadian Host Family
Would we do it again? Yes, and we plan on it once our son is ready to handle company next to his room and to share his bathroom.
You don’t have to have kids to become a host family but having kids is equally as rewarding of an experience for the international students as it is yours.
I was in no way paid to write this post about our homestay experience as hosts but I thought that more people need to know about this program more than ever.
I think it’s critical for Canadians to be open to the diversity that other countries offer and to share what we offer here in Canada.
Trust me they are just as excited as I was the first time I landed in this country that I now call home.
We are all wanderers of this earth and now we have friends for life something money can’t buy.
Discussion: Would you consider becoming a host family in Canada? Have you been a host family? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comment section below. I love reading your feedback.