The Homestay Coordinator’s main focus is to support the students and host families. Having a strong relationship with the school will make these tasks much easier. Homestay Coordinators are encouraged to be in schools and visiting schools as often as needed to maintain a strong connection.
Student registration is the responsibility of the school but the school needs to know it has the support of the program. Homestay Coordinators should leave the final course selection to the student and school guidance counsellors but they should be aware of the process of registration and requirements of the various countries. A copy of the NSISP Tips for Registering Students can be given to schools.
Students from specific countries have specific academic requirements to allow them to re-validate their year in their home country. Re-validation means when a student studies grade 10 in Nova Scotia, they can transfer their grade 10 year back to their home country so they do not have to repeat the grade. Often this requires validation by their Embassy/Consulate in Canada. If a student does not register for the proper courses, or fails a course, they will need to repeat their school year in their home country.
In many cases, the pass mark in their home country is 60% or 70% and while a student may make a mark in the 50’s in Nova Scotia and pass this course, they will require a letter indicating to their home school they have indeed passed this course. The NSISP will have this letter issued on behalf of the Department of Education.
The NSISP has a bi-annual conference for principals or guidance counsellors. Each principal and guidance counsellor is given a list of general student requirements based on their home country. If a student indicates that s/he does not need the specific courses expected of other students from their country, their agent is always questioned for approval. A letter (in English) must be sent from the agent/home school
stating the student has permission to be exempt from these courses.
Ensuring students have proper support during this busy period of school registration is important. Many students are experiencing culture shock and are overwhelmed by the process of selecting their courses as they have never been asked to choose classes before. Homestay Coordinators should be in regular communication with students and schools during student registration to assist both parties in being
Some schools have chosen to hold an open house at the school for international students on a night before school begins. This gives students more time to spend with the guidance counsellors and get comfortable in their school environment, find their classes, and learn the layout of the school when it is relatively free of students. Students from the International Student Club or International Teacher Liaison are available to welcome students. International Student Registration Night is also a good night to invite host parents to the school to assist in this process and help ease students into their new school environment.
Helping Students Adjust to their New School Environment
Each student adjusts to their new experience in a different way. The process of culture shock is important to understand and share with others. Share the process of culture shock with students, host families, and school staff. If all parties are working together to recognize culture shock for what it is and to deal with it, then it will be much easier to manage and discuss.
There are many resources dealing with culture shock available on the internet in English and other languages. It may be worthwhile to direct students to do some research in their own language on understanding and dealing with culture shock. A basic summary of the stages of culture shock can be found here:
1. The Honeymoon—students are excited about their new experiences and surroundings. Students will begin to associate Canada with their home country. They will also look for similarities between the two, and this helps them feel more comfortable.
2. Shock—students start to feel a little disorientated. They will start to notice the differences between Canadian living and home. At this point, the student might feel the most homesick. Most students do not display strong symptoms however some may get sleepier or need more time alone away from the host family. Keep the lines of communication open during this time as the student may want to talk about their
3. Recovery—students feel more comfortable, relaxed and secure within their surroundings.
4. Home free—students are now members of the family. Students will begin to enjoy the differences of their new life. They will also display more confidence and feel at home with their host family.
Many schools have assigned a staff person to be the liaison person for students in the school. In cases where this is occurring, ensure students know who this person is and how to contact them. In situations where your schools do not have an assigned person dealing with international students, this is a great suggestion on how to improve communication within the school and with the program.
Regional Centre staff are very good at sharing their successes with other boards across the province. The Nova Scotia International Student Program is constantly working to better serve international students and help them to be well-adjusted and successful. Regular Operations Committee meetings, local Homestay Coordinator meetings, and the annual Homestay Coordinator’s Conference are all forums for sharing tips and ideas on how to improve the program. School board programs are not in competition with each other and should work together as often as possible to draw on each other’s strengths and learn from their challenges.
At a recent Homestay Coordinator’s Conference, a list of best practices in making school environments more welcoming for international students was created:
As well, the CultureGrams© would be a good resource in schools to help teachers, guidance counsellors, and other school staff help understand the international students.