Semi-retired Barrie resident Joan Binnie says welcoming international students into her home isn’t complicated.
“Sometimes it’s getting late when they arrive. I give them a quick tour of the house and a bottle of water and say ‘OK, here’s your room. Breakfast is at 9 a.m.’ In the morning, while we eat, I ask them how much English they know and what they’re studying.”
And so it goes—the start of another rewarding experience that includes interesting company, a refreshed routine, a little extra money each month and the opportunity to contribute to the success of a young person.
For more than 5 years, Joan has been a homestay parent and has hosted more than 10 international students studying at Georgian College. Stays have ranged from a few weeks to a little over a year.
Joan grew up in Barrie’s east end and eventually moved to the country where she and her husband raised their family and lived for more than 30 years. She moved back to Barrie after her husband passed away and took a cue from her sister and a friend who’d been hosting international students for years.
“I bought my house with students in mind,” Joan says. There’s plenty of rooms and a functional layout with a mix of open, family-style spaces and privacy. Once she settled in, Joan applied to be a host parent. After a successful interview, she was asked if she’d take students the following week. Since then, Joan has hosted students from Asia and South America and keeps in touch with many of them—sometimes on a weekly basis.
Her first student, Weiliang from China, bought Joan a miniature rose bush as a thank you that she planted in her garden. She’s emailed Weiliang a photo of it every year for the last five years to show him how it’s faring. He now works as a chef in Toronto where he plans to apply for Canadian citizenship.
Another student, Javier from Panama, went on to study at a flight school in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is earning his pilot’s licence back home. He checks in regularly and still refers to Joan as his “Canadian Mother.”
Again, Joan, who’s a parent and grandparent, says there are aspects similar to parenting, but it’s not that complicated.
“Communicate well and nip things in the bud,” she says. “Students are mostly interested in school and their friends. I’ve never had any of my students under foot.”
Canada Homestay Network is looking for homestay hosts across Simcoe County, particularly in Barrie, Collingwood & Orillia. Hosts get 24/7 support, an allowance to offset expenses and the opportunity to bring the world to their front door.