For Katerine and Emmanuel Delfin, it was an empty suite in their home’s lower level (Katerine’s parents had just moved out), as well as an opportunity, explains Katerine, to show their two teenage girls “that there are many ways to be nice to people . . . and why not learn about the world over dinner?”
Plus, she adds, “if my girls end up travelling or studying overseas, I would like to think some kind family would take care of them,” recalling the many friendly folk she met when she first moved to Calgary from Peru in 1998.
Karen and Dave Holmes, who have now hosted nine students through UCalgary’s Homestay program, waited until they were empty-nesters. It was the summer of 2013 — their sons had just moved out when a fun-loving student from Quebec named William moved in.
“We have kept in touch with him,” explains Karen, adding that William’s trip to Calgary launched his travels which have now taken him from L.A. to Alaska and from Quebec to Newfoundland, along with two long stays in South America.
“William is now fluent in French, English and Spanish and just graduated from university,” adds Karen, explaining, as proudly as any parent, that his one-month English course at UCalgary was the first time he had ventured outside of Quebec.
This past summer, the Delfins hosted two students who were enrolled in the summer-intensive English program: Yuina Fukushima from Japan and Yoori Cho from Korea. What impressed Yuina the most was, “everything is very big here and fathers finish work earlier in Canada. My father never gets home before 8 or 9 p.m., so we just eat dinner with our mother, never our father.”
For Yoori, “it’s the sky and how fresh and clean everything is — that’s what’s different. There are so many buildings here and people from different countries.”
The motivations vary widely for the host families UCalgary matches annually with 700 international students, but it helps if the hosts like to cook (families are responsible for making dinner and providing students with food for breakfast and lunch) and are curious about the world.