Homestay – The BEST Way to Improve Your English!

We have been a HOMESTAY family for almost 20 years now. Our children – now adults – have grown up with having Homestay guests being a part of our family from the time they were just starting school. We have learned much from having these many and varied guests over the years, and hope that they feel the same!
At the beginning, we took our very first Homestay student because it seemed like a fun thing to do for a couple of weeks. Our kids were 6 and 4 years old, and our student was 14 and from Japan. Her English was what I would call ‘survival English’ – obviously a million times better than our Japanese, which was non-existent. Looking back, I think we learned as much that first time as she did. We learned that apparently at that time (1993) children were not taught the ‘evils of smoking’ in school as they are here. I vividly remember waking up in the middle of the night smelling cigarette smoke. When I confronted her, she knew she shouldn’t have been smoking, but did not seem to understand how upset and concerned I was. We learned about gifts and Heather especially learned her first couple of Japanese words. We did – overall – enjoy the experience, and knew we wanted to do it again!
We moved, and in a new city were very close to the university. Over the next few years we had a large number of Homestay guests from a variety of programs. We had college students, university students, and high school students. We had Homestay students for a weekend and we had ones who stayed with us for two years. Sometimes we just had one student, and sometimes we had four at one time. Looking back on those 9 years in particular, we learned a lot, and our children definitely learned a lot. And – we hope our students also learned positive things from the time they spent with us. During those years our Homestay Guests were from Germany, South Korea, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Venezuela, and China. We also accumulated many Homestay Student Gifts! For a couple of years I also worked as a Homestay Coordinator for a private Homestay organization. That was both fun and challenging.
Another move – this time to be closer to my mom. Initially the house wasn’t ready for students, but after some renos we had two more bedrooms for Homestay students. Because we had no transit service, it was a natural to have Homestay Students from our local high school. Our kids were in high school at that time, and it was definitely a morning rush to get 3 or 4 kids ready and all on the school bus. We had a brother/sister pair from South Korea, and a boy from Thailand, and a boy from Mexico – all for the full school year. We also had a boy from Germany and a boy from Brazil for single semesters. During that time we also had Homestay guests from WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) and HelpExchange – basically free room and board for help around the house/property. Those were adults, travelling around the world – from China, Korea, England, Ireland, Germany, Brazil, Italy – and more!
And – guess what – another move! Almost two years ago we moved into town from our acreage, and now live within walking distance of shopping and a bus stop. This opens up opportunities to have Homestay guests who would not otherwise have been interested in staying with us. Since being here we’ve had several guests through’ HelpExchange, several short-term Japanese teen students, and two full-time International high-school students. We currently have a 17 year old girl from China, and last year had a boy from South Korea.
In the past couple of years we’ve also started doing HOMESTAY TUTORING – sort of like Bed & Breakfast combined with English as a Second Language training. We’ve had a couple of families stay with us, and last summer we had a middle-aged teacher from Switzerland with us for 2+ weeks.
It is the truth that by being a Homestay family you bring the world to your home. We do enjoy having the teenage Homestay students, but I think overall our favourites are now our HOMESTAY TUTORING guests. Most of them have fairly good English, and really do want to learn. They also know a lot about their own country and culture, and are eager to share that with us. We’ve had some great conversations, and some great times showing them special places here on Vancouver Island.
Would I recommend being a Homestay family to others? Most definitely YES!

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