The love of local families is being sought by the Rocky Mountain International Student Program, as more than a dozen students from abroad are already registered for a year of school in the valley and need homes.
“We’re looking for families – not room and board,” said Lori Sluth, homestay co-ordinator. “They can be retired, single, but we want it to be a family environment.”
Through a program organized by Rocky Mountain School District No. 6 for the fifth year, students from around the globe will be granted the chance to study at David Thompson Secondary School for two semesters.
International students who have confirmed the trip will arrive from Japan, Germany, Mexico and Switzerland.
“It’s the greatest thing going,” said Sluth. “The cultural diversity that the kids bring to the area is very interesting.”
For anyone who is already raising children, the added commitment of international students will be similar to parenting, she said.
However, while children have many universal similarities no matter where they grow up, Sluth said differences in their schooling are noticeable in the foreign students.
Some international visitors have had strong impacts on the school community, she added, citing a German student who claimed David Thompson Secondary School’s top chef award at the end of the year he studied in the valley.
“They don’t just come to learn, they bring stuff to teach us,” she said. “And that’s pretty rewarding.”
Since the program began five years ago, many of the host families have kept in touch with their students and some have flown abroad to visit them.
“Some of these are kids whose maids have maids,” Sluth said, “The super elites.”
While international students will not be fully accustomed to Canadian culture, they come with open minds and positive attitudes, she said.
“They come and learn how to do something as simple as cooking, then go home and freak their families out by showing them they learned how to cook,” she said.
DTSS Grade 11 student Eri Hirokawa, a Japanese student who is completing the 2012/13 school year in June, was coaxed into travelling to Canada for her studies after years of hearing about her mother’s similar experience.
“My mom studied in Canada when she was young, and she talked about it which made me really want to go and study English,” Hirokawa told The Valley Echo.
Asked her favourite aspect of Canadian culture, Hirokawa said she most appreciated the friendly attitudes.
“Canadians greet each other on the street even if they don’t know each other,” she said.
And there is at least one difference in the curriculum she can appreciate.
“In Canada, the school day is really short — in Japan I have to study until 5 or 6 p.m. every day,” she said.
She mostly misses Japanese food, as well as friends and family. But Canadian sushi is comparable, she said, and she’s taken a liking to lasagna.
The Rocky Mountain International Student Program offers international students invaluable learning experiences in the valley, which in turn raises enrolment numbers, provides economic value to the area, and promotes tourism in the valley through the student’s friends and family. Host families are allocated a $650 monthly allowance for up to ten months in length.
Those interested in hosting can find out more by contacting Sluth at 250-688-0790, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.