Part of the family
Host families are an integral part of the life of the students who stay with them. They provide more than just room and board; they become friends and guides in a new culture. A successful experience is rewarding for both students and families.
As might be expected, there is often a period of adjustment, and in the beginning students need a lot of information and support from their host families. For many it is their first time away from home and the first time they make all of their own decisions. Most of them do not speak much English and often find our ways confusing. Often, too, they are too shy to ask for clarification.
They will not be able to absorb everything the first day and, experience has taught us, in many cases they will not be able to understand everything you say. You may find that you need to explain things more than once.
At English-language school, the students often joke about “cultural differences” but these do exist and, unfortunately, even get in the way occasionally. What you may take as indifference, coolness, slowness, thoughtlessness or rudeness in the students may only be a mutual misunderstanding of signals. Hopefully problems and frustrations will be rare and students will feel welcome.
What your visitor needs to know
Bus INFORMATION: How to get around on public transportation, including the home-school route. Most students also like to purchase one-month bus passes and need to know where to find them.
ORIENTATION: Your address and telephone number: in the first few days students often forget or misplace this information (sometimes your name as well...).
household habits: Make sure the student is familiar with:
— Your family routine: meal times, times you need bathrooms/hot water, quiet times (i.e., to go to sleep early or sleep in), telephone rules, ways they can help around the house, laundry etc.
— How and when to use your appliances: oven, microwave, dishwasher, washer/dryer and small appliances.
— How to use the television. This is very important for their English. Far from wasting their time, TV can be a very useful form of homework.
— Anything that is off-limits, such as special equipment or food for special occasions.
— Guidelines for long-distance phone calls. Have your student purchase a telephone card for making long-distance calls.
— Rules for use of computer.
What a host family needs to provide
bedroom: Each student must have his or her own private bedroom, furnished with bed, dresser, closet, desk and chair and be provided with linen and towels. Rooms must also have a window and a source of heat. Sharing a bedroom is permitted only by prior arrangment.
BEDROOMS FOR SHORT-TERM TOURS: An exception to the private bedroom policy is for tours, when two students travelling with a group are placed together for short stays, usually of ten days or less, and may share a bedroom (separate beds required). The other exception is couples who have requested a shared room.
mealtime options: Vancouver Family Homestays offers two meal options: full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and half board (breakfast and dinner).
Vancouver Family Homestays notifies families of which meal option their student has chosen when we make the placement with them. Sometimes students do not know which plan has been chosen for them; some decide to change their option afer arriving.)
LAUNDRY FACILITIES: Students must have access to the laundry facilities in your home.
ACCESS: Students must be provided with their own key to your home. If you have an alarm, make sure your student understands how to operate it (nodding of the head may not be the same as understanding...) and the procedure to follow if the alarm is triggered accidentally.
A NEW ARRIVAL: When your student lands
WELCOME TO VANCOUVER: A member of your family must be at home (or arrangements made for someone to greet your student) when your student arrives. We will inform you of the student’s arrival information as far ahead of time as possible.
Most students arrive in Vancouver by flying in to Vancouver International Airport.
Airport pickup, if the student requests it, is made by our driver, Christian Krauth. Christian can be reached at (604) 644-8789 on the arrival day if you run into difficulties.
If your student is to be greeted by you at the airport, Vancouver Family Home-stays will inform you of the flight information as far ahead of time as possible. Families will, time permitting, receive a sign by mail which carries the student’s name to be displayed in the arrivals lounge.
TOUR ARRIVALS: For tours, you will need to pick your students up at a central meeting point, usually a community centre (Riley Park in Vancouver and Delbrook on the North Shore are the ones we most commonly use).
Students and their agents demand that we provide them with accurate, up-to-date profiles of host families. This can be a challenge as children grow up and move out, pets are acquired or pass on, new careers start and various other changes occur as time goes on. Please let us know about significant changes in your household – as well as details like new cell-phone numbers etc. – so we can keep your record up-to date.
Frequently Asked Questions
How will I receive payment? Most students have paid for their homestay in advance and payment will be disbursed by VFH. If your student attends language school, payment normally goes out at the end of the first week of class.Payment is for a four week period, from Saturday to Sunday. Additional days paid at a daily rate. If you have a question about payment, we urge you to give us a call before raising the matter with your student. Payment normally goes out at the end of the first week of school. Tours are paid at daily rates that vary according to the length of stay – i.e., higher for shorter stays.
Can I host more than one student? Our students come to Canada to learn English, so it is imperative that they speak only English at home. If you are going to host more than one student, they must speak different native languages. VFH guarantees to the schools and agents we contract to that there will be no other students speaking the same native language in the homestay. Should this prove to be otherwise we have no choice but to move the student immediately. Also, hosting students of opposite sexes may be unacceptable to some students and their families. To avoid problems of this type, please be sure to inform Vancouver Family Homestays of the details of any other students you are or will be hosting and of any students you accept subsequent to accepting a student from us.
What if a student extends their stay? Often, students decide to stay on longer than they originally planned. Please let us know if your student is staying on so we will know that you aren’t available for another student.
What if a student wants to move out earlier than when I had been told? We ask students who wish to move that they give four weeks’ notice to their host families. Exceptions to this rule are made in the first week of school if a student is not happy in his or her homestay. Please note that the four-week notice rule is not legally enforceable so we cannot guarantee that a student will give adequate notice.
Who will be staying in my home? Students are usually of college age or older and come from many different nations in various parts of the world. They elect for homestay rather than, say, an apartment, because they want to improve their English more quickly and learn about our culture while sharing their own.
What is expected for breakfast? It may be served by you or offered on a help-yourself basis. In the latter case, make sure your student understands what is available, where it is kept, and how to prepare it. Cereal, toast, fruit, juice, milk, tea and coffee are typical weekday offerings.
What is expected in a packed lunch? A sandwich (meat, fish or cheese), fruit, beverage and a snack. Some students require less. Microwaved leftovers make a change from sandwiches. Some families let their students make their own lunch, others prefer to have it ready.
What if we will be away overnight? Families need to make sure that their guests are comfortable and understand all arrangements for meals, etc. Make sure they have necessary contact phone numbers. Many host families like to invite their students along on weekend skiing or camping trips.
What things does our student need to be provided with?
Students have their own shampoo, toiletries, etc., and will depend on you for towels, linen, toilet paper and other basics.
Can the student share a room?
Student bedrooms must be occupied by one person only (exceptions apply to short-term tours). The room should be warm, well lit, and comparable to the family’s accommodation. It should have a window and be quiet so the student can study. Young children should understand it is off limits to them unless they are invited.
FEEDBACK FROM STUDENTS
Every month we deal with a few students who are not happy in their homestays and wish to move to another host family. Also, we pay close attention to the homestay assessments that students fill out before going home. Here are some messages we often hear, and what can be done:
“My host family doesn’t talk to me”
This is the single most frequent complaint we hear from students. We especially hear it from those with late classes (ending at 6:00 p.m.) who are unable to get home in time to have dinner with the family and so end up eating alone on weeknights.
Solution: Allocate time to spend with your student every day. If they regularly can’t get home in time for dinner, sitting down and talking with them for a few minutes while they are having dinner will help them feel more welcome.
“My room doesn’t have a ... (window, closet, bed, dresser, desk, chair, heat).”
When our staff come to visit your home and inspect the bedroom or bedrooms you wish to use for student accommodation, they check off the things we require: window, closet, bed, dresser, desk, chair, source of heat. If you subsequently remove any of these elements or use a room not approved by our staff, your student may have grounds to complain.
Solution: Make sure room furnishings adhere to our guidelines and heaters or heat ducts are functional. Explain how your house is heated. Most importantly, don’t put a student in a room you wouldn’t live in yourself.
“Often theres nothing to make lunch with,” or “They have the same thing every day.”
These are two common refrains from students. “Sometimes, I have to buy my own groceries,” is another one and it is especially problematic for us.
Solution: Ensure you have supplies for lunches for the week for your full board students and that prepared meals, refrigerated or frozen, are available if you will be out for dinner or away overnight. If students want particular foods or condiments from their own countries that are not what your own family would normally eat, suggest that they purchase them for themselves and give them directions to stores that sell them. Examples include T & T Supermarkets for a variety of Asian foods and Fujiya for Japanese food.