A surge in international students coming to the West Kootenay to study English at Selkirk College has opened up further opportunities for local families to experience a cultural exchange close to home.
Starting in late-August, the Selkirk College English Language Program will immerse more than 100 international students in a new language and introduce them to Canadian culture. With the number of students nearly doubling from last year, the first semester cohort has increased the demand for homestay families.
Selkirk College international students provide an opportunity explore and share cultures. With an increase in enrolment in the English Language Program for the Fall Semester, the college is putting out a call for more homestay participants to help enhance the cultural experience for both sides.
“Hosting an international student, even for one semester, can be a life-changing experience for some families,” says Danny Beatty, Selkirk College’s Manager of International Education & Development. “If people have considered this in the past, we would encourage residents of our area to apply to host a student for one semester.”
International Flavour Important for College Life
Through long-standing and more recent partnerships with post-secondary institutions across the globe, Selkirk College has seen an upward trend in students making the journey to the West Kootenay to study English. The recent bump in numbers is coming from Japan and South Korea, but strong enrolment from countries like India, China, Ukraine and Nigeria has contributed to the number of international students increasing to more than 300.
“It’s important because our international students bring with them cultures from around the world and enrich the learning experience for each other and our domestic students,” Beatty says of the burgeoning program. “Exposure to other cultures, ways of thinking and language is important both from a personal and career perspective.”
The international component of the Selkirk College student body is vibrant and enthusiastic as witnessed at the International Education Week celebration that takes place every November on the Castlegar Campus.
International students are enrolled in a number of different programs at both the Castlegar and Nelson campuses. Depending on proficiency in English, students either enrol in the ELP or gain direct entry into programs like Business Administration, Resort & Hotel Management and the School of University Arts & Sciences. The call for homestay families is for newly arriving students who are currently registered for one semester of ELP.
“Since we have seen an increase in international students in general over the past few years, this has put increased pressure on all our housing options,” says Tessa Bendig, International Student Services Coordinator. “The residences are filling up faster and faster each semester and the same is true for our host families, many who have been with the program for many years. Last fall we placed 42 new students in homestay, this year we will place 75.”
Homestay participants are expected to provide the students a private room, three meals a day and laundry facilities. Homestay placements can last anywhere from three to eight months and those taking part are remunerated.
“Homestay families are often surprised by how much they enjoy this experience,” says Beatty. “They play such a vital role in the overall experience our students have at Selkirk College. Families really enjoy learning about how people live in other parts of the world, sharing their cultures and introducing them to life in the Kootenays.”
Bonds that Last a Lifetime
Having a welcoming home to return to after class is vital to the success of many who choose Selkirk College as their springboard into the English language.
“The international students often form strong relationships with their host families that can last many years,” says Beatty. “International students may struggle with homesickness and having a Canadian family that welcomes them into their home helps overcome this. Students also comment that the day-to-day practice of English in the home reinforces what they learn in their classes at Selkirk College and makes them improve in ways that would not be possible if they decided to live on their own. Perhaps most importantly, homestay provides a glimpse into Canadian life that could never be taught in a classroom.”
Homestays are primarily needed in Castlegar, but depending on transportation availability can be considered in communities across the region. Find out more information about the Selkirk College homestay program at selkirk.ca/international/our-students/accommodation/homestay-best-choice-new-students. You can also call Tessa Bending at 250.365.1291 if you have any questions.