A Vancouver-based non-profit student exchange organization offering world travel opportunities to students at home and abroad is seeking host families in the central Alberta area.
Global Partners, for the past 20 years, has been bringing students from all around the world to Canada, placing them in the homes of local families while they attend school and become integrated into Canadian culture.
About 10 international students currently reside and attend school in Sylvan Lake, Red Deer, Innisfail and Spruce View, with another group set to arrive in the summer for the upcoming school year.
Families in the area are needed to welcome these students into their homes, and to help them adjust to the Canadian way of life for the duration of their stay.
“We’re always looking for good families,” said Valerie Schirru, area co-ordinator for Global Partners.
The loss of several families who have previously hosted students has created an opportunity for other families to get involved.
A number of requirements must be met in order for a family to act as a host, however, being able to provide basic necessities for the students and helping them become settled during their time in Canada are two of the primary considerations.
Schirru said some students settle more easily than others, while some have difficulty adjusting to a new culture and learning a new language.
“Sometimes there is a little bit of culture shock” she said. “Usually when they get here, it’s a language thing, and then halfway through the year, they get homesick. For some of them it can be a big challenge.
“It’s just a matter of finding a family that can get them through that and kind of keep them busy and just treat them like they’re part of the family.”
Schirru assured that most students who visit do not want to leave by the time their 10-month stay is over. During her 16 years as a host, not one has requested to go home early.
“We have kids that come back and visit” she said. “I think it really opens their eyes. It really changes you to be in another culture and learn another language.”
Momoe Hamada, a 16-year-old HJ Cody School exchange student from Tokyo, Japan is currently living with Schirru, and is making the most of her time in Canada. She spent the morning of Jan. 30 talking to students at Steffie Woima Elementary School describing Japanese culture to them.
“I like Canada, even snow,” she said. “Tokyo is busy, but here, everyone is friendly.”
Hamada decided to relocate to Canada as an exchange student having previously spent four weeks in Vancouver. During her time here, she’s spent time ice fishing, skating and learning English.
One of Schirru’s previous international students from Germany was introduced to skating and hockey during her time in Canada. Such was her passion for the sport that she continued playing upon her return home, eventually earning a spot on the German national team.
Schirru said host families are needed not just in Sylvan Lake, but throughout central Alberta. Students will arrive in August for the upcoming 2013-14 school year, and leave in June of next year. Families interested in hosting students are asked to contact Valerie Schirru at 403-887-2336.