Before Your Student Arrives

  • Discuss with your family members the expectations relating to hosting the international student.
  • Qualicum International School Program will provide you with contact and background information on your student. This will include a family contact and an email address if available.
  • Start to communicate with the family. Send a letter or email of introduction. Pictures are certainly welcome.
  • Cut house key, acquire bus schedule and local maps
  • Prepare house rules and emergency numbers list.
  • Become familiar with homestay guidelines and information on this website
  • You will be advised at least several days prior to your student’s arrival of the flight number and arrival time so that you can arrange to pick your student up at the airport. Typically your student has traveled long hours to get to Parksville/Qualicum and will need to adjust to the time change. Try not to plan any strenuous activities for the first couple of days after arrival as it is important that your student has time to adjust.
  • Criminal Record Check. All adult members of the family (19 years and over) are included AND anyone living in the house or on the property who is 19 and over. Visit the local RCMP detachment office to get the necessary documentation. Remember, also, to get criminal record checks if you have children who turn 19 while you are hosting a student, or you have another adult come to live in your home or on your property during the year . There is a cost of approximately $40.00 per FAMILY for this service that the homestay family must be responsible for.
  • Once you know your student’s arrival date, contact the high school to make an appointment for them with the counsellor at BSS or KSS (check the “Who to Contact” sheet)

The First Few Days

  • Keep your student busy but also give some time alone. Remember he/she will be jet-lagged and possibly in culture shock. (see Health/Safety for culture shock information)
  • Encourage him/her to phone home soon after arrival so the parents know he/she has arrived safely. If you can, speak to the parents yourself saying how pleased you are to have their son/daughter with you.
  • Introduce your student to family, friends and neighbours. Write down names to help him/her remember.
  • Make sure your student has an ID card with your name, address and telephone number on it, and tell him/her to carry it at all times.
  • Take the time to learn the correct pronunciation of your student’s name.
  • Teach your student how to use the phone, what your phone number is and emergency numbers, how to use the phone directory, and rules for making calls.
  • Help your student arrange for a personal cell phone or SIM card, if requested.
  • Take your student to the post office and teach him/her to buy the correct stamps. Buy a postcard and encourage your student to send one to his parents immediately.
  • Go with your student to open a bank account, if needed. Stress not to carry large amounts of money or leave it at home. Show your student how to use his/her ATM card and stress the importance of keeping the PIN number secret. (see more information below)
  • Show students where they can buy personal supplies (deodorant, feminine products, shampoo, etc)
  • Go over school information with your student.
  • Discuss schedules for breakfast, showering, school, supper, etc.
  • Show your student the route to and from school, or where to get on/off the bus.
  • Visit some local points of interest.
  • Establish a pattern of daily conversation. Have your student help make a list of conversation topics to get through the first few weeks.
  • Relax and make the student feel comfortable.

House Tour: Please do a thorough tour of your home – both inside and out. Show students how to use appliances and discuss common and personal spaces. Standards of privacy and personal space can vary across cultures – for example, the practice of knocking on a bedroom door before entering. Students may not know simple things such as having the shower curtain inside the bathtub when showering or how to use the shower taps.

Things to consider:

  • Tap water is safe to drink in Canada
  • Not everything can or should be flushed down the toilet
  • Toilet tissue should be placed in toilet (not in the garbage can)
  • Shoes off when entering the home
  • Recycling – what is recycled and what isn’t
  • Thermostat or temperature adjustments
  • Computer access
  • Emergency phone numbers (911 is only common in North America)
  • How to use kitchen appliances: remember that most of the international students have never helped out in the kitchen before. Go slowly, and watch them carefully.

Banking:   Some students will have a debit or credit card from home that they may access via a bank machine, but not all machines will work for all cards. You may have to try a couple of different ATMs to find one that will work.

Some students will arrive with a lot of cash, and in this case you will need to assist the student to open a bank account. This will involve visiting the bank and helping them complete the necessary forms. Their passport will be required for identification. A checking account is suggested as it provides more versatility and prevents a student having to withdraw large sums of money to pay fees such as monthly Homestay fees. The student’s family may use this account to transfer funds to the student.

School Registration – Every year, register at the school so that school has the most up to date info. They will need a copy of the student’s passport and study visa.


Family Involvement:  The students know that they are staying in your home as a member of your family and are encouraged to participate in all family functions. Initially students may require an adjustment period, so providing some private time is suggested. We encourage families to eat the evening meal with their student, for conversation and family time. The student should be included in your family activities during the weekend.

Sense of Belonging:  Help to make your student feel like a real part of the family. Have a photo of your student on the fridge, put his/her birthday on the calendar and have a celebration, know about health issues, meet his/her friends and welcome them into your home, celebrate good marks or a great report card.

Phone use:  Students can use the family telephone, but must use a calling card for long distance calls. It is OK to place a time limit on phone calls on the family phone line, especially during peak periods when all members of the family need to use the phone. Some families limit the use of a telephone to the hours before 10 p.m. however, we ask you to be aware that for students from Asia, this may be the only time when they can reach their families. Most students will use Skype or a cell phone app to communicate with friends and family.

Computer Use:  Most students arrive with their own computers and tablets.   You do not have to provide unlimited internet time, and sometimes homestay families need to set very specific limits on any internet surfing, however many students use internet as a means of communicating with their families, so keep in mind that they may be needing to speak with their families later in the evening. If you find your student surfing inappropriately, please contact your Homestay Coordinator immediately and the parents will be notified.

Household Chores:  The students should keep their own rooms clean. They may never have done this before, so simple instructions and a demonstration is required. They might also be asked to help clear away the dishes, or set the table, or help put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher.

Religion:  Please respect the religious beliefs and background of your student. For example, if you have a practicing Roman Catholic student it would be best to inquire if they wish to attend a youth group at a Catholic church, not the church of your faith if it is different from theirs. Some natural parents are adamant about the place of worship for their child.

Food and Dining:  Three meals per day are normal. Food needs to be made available for your student to prepare if you happen to be away. Ensure that the student does not have to prepare meals for him/herself on a regular basis. Canadian food can be a problem for international students at first. Eating times, table manners, methods of serving and presenting food may also be different. Many Asian students prefer a hot breakfast and a hot lunch. Latin American students are used to a large meal at lunch time.

  • Take your student food shopping with you, especially to the ethnic food section, and ask your student what he/she would like. Rice is an important part of the Asian diet; rice and brown beans of the Latin American diet. Have your student select the type of rice. Minute Rice or Uncle Bens is nothing like the rice your student is familiar with. We recommend getting a rice cooker.
  • Give your student a tour of your kitchen, naming food items in the cupboards and refrigerator.
  • Encourage your student to prepare a favorite dish for your family. Discuss with your student who prepares breakfast and lunch (sometimes the family does; sometimes the student does. if the latter you as a homestay parent must provide the ingredients.)

Some differences between Canadian and Asian food eating habits are as follows:

Canadian                                      Asian
May not take long to prepare meals May take a long time to prepare meals
Usually eat potatoes instead of rice Eat rice daily
May use canned or frozen food Usually eat fresh food
Do not eat much fish or raw fish Often have raw or cooked fish
Eat raw vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower Do not eat as many kinds of raw vegetables
Do not always peel fruit Often peel fruit


House Rules:  Your student is expected to follow whatever rules you have for other members of the household, age appropriate. Discuss your rules early and often, making sure your student understands the rules and the reasons for the rules. Establish reasonable consequences for breaking the rules – remember, they are children/teenagers.Some guidelines and policies are as follows:

  • Students must let you know where they are at all times
  • Students must ensure their cell phone is fully charged and payments kept up to date
  • Students mut call the homestay if they miss a bus, a ride or will be late
  • Students must respect your rules re smoking in or around the house
  • Students are prohibited from using alcohol or drugs
  • Students are expected to have some light chores or assist with some duties in the home
  • Students must ask ahead of time if they need rides to special events, have friends stay overnight, etc.
  • Homestay parents can limit the number of overnight stays, both in their home or if the student goes to other homes
  • Students must not be left alone overnight; adult supervision in the home must be arranged if you are away
  • Students must attend school every day unless they are ill; homestay parents must inform the school if the student is ill
  • Immigration Canada does not permit students to hold jobs while in Canada

Conduct with respect to hosting students:

As Host Parents, you are the responsible adult, NOT the best friend of the student. You are expected to act in a kind and judicious manner with respect to your dealing with your student.

A primary responsibility of the host parent is to care for the student and to keep the District Principal informed about the welfare of the student. That includes informing us of behaviors of other students which may impact on your student and in making us aware of potentially dangerous or inappropriate personal relationships.

Bathroom Use:

You should find out what your student’s expectations are concerning the use of the bathroom. It is best to talk to your student about this at the very start of their stay. You are expected to provide necessary bathroom items such as toilet paper, soap and towels, but student should supply their own personal items such as toothpaste, shampoo and hand cream. You may wish to discuss shower times and length in regards to the family routine as well. It is important to remember that different cultures have a different bathroom routines.  If you have a student coming from Asia, you may find this poster useful: Bathroom Use

For example, Canadian and Asian bathrooms and bathroom routines can be very different.

Some of the main differences are as follows;

Canadian Asian
Prefer taking showers to baths Often take baths
Often shower in the morning Often shower or bath in the evening
Do not normally take long showers or baths (usually ten minutes) as the hot water tank has a limited supply of hot water May take long showers or baths
Bathe inside the bathtub – drain and clean the tub after use Fill the bathtub with water and wash themselves outside the tub
Have no drain in the bathroom floor so keep the bathroom floor dry Have a drain in the bathroom floor and leave the bathroom wet