Homestay hosts form lasting bonds with international students

Homestay hosts form lasting bonds with international students

March 24, 2014


Homestay program information session

Wednesday, March 26, 7 pm

Duncan McArthur Hall (511 Union Street), Room A236

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

For Belinda Scilley, a self-professed “people person,” there’s nothing better than hosting international students enrolled in Queen’s School of English (QSoE) programs.

“The students are so enthusiastic and I really feed off of that. It keeps me young,” says Ms. Scilley, who has participated in the QSoE’s Homestay program for the past seven years. “I get to learn about a lot of different cultures and travel to places around the world to visit the students after they leave Kingston.”

There’s a real buzz around Ms. Scilley’s house with up to six international students living with her at a time. She always has a big pot of food on the stove and baked goods in the oven. And more and more, the dishes have an international flavour as she learns to cook the cuisine of her guests in order to make them feel at home.

Homestay host Belinda Scilley having fun around the house with two international students who are taking programs at the Queen's School of English.

Ms. Scilley’s motherly demeanour has helped her form strong and enduring bonds with many of the students. She has travelled to Turkey twice to visit a former Homestay participant and his family. His three sisters welcomed her into the family and one invited Ms. Scilley to her wedding.

“That’s the kind of reward that comes from treating the students as your own kids. It’s why I have chosen to participate in the program. It’s been an amazing opportunity for me,” she says.

Mary-Lou Nolte, one of the co-ordinators of the program, has heard countless stories of hosts and students keeping in touch. She said life-long bonds can form in just a few short weeks.

As much as the hosts’ lives are enriched by the program, the students benefit equally by the opportunity to experience Canadian culture and to practise speaking English in an immersive environment.

“And the support they receive from the Homestay hosts really helps them adjust to an unfamiliar environment,” she says.

Current Homestay hosts will share their experiences at a Homestay information session on March 26 at Duncan McArthur Hall, Room A236, beginning at 7 pm. Anyone interested in becoming a Homestay host is welcome to attend.

More information about the program is available on the Queen’s School of English website.