Why Students Choose Nova Scotia as a Destination
It is important for Homestay Coordinators to talk with students and learn why individual students have chosen to study abroad and why they have chosen Nova Scotia. The majority of international students study in private schools in their home country and they are experiencing public school for the first time. Students come to the program from all walks of life and for a variety of reasons. The NSISP believes students are drawn to study in Nova Scotia for three main reasons: a program that has proven itself to be organized and reliable; a safe and caring environment with a small population; and a great education system.
The students who participate in the NSISP pay tuition, homestay fees, and insurance and medical fees. They also need money for airfare and, of course, expenses during their stay. It is easy to believe all students are rich and live privileged lives at home but this is not always the case. The Nova Scotia International Student Program gives bursaries every year to deserving students who cannot afford to study abroad. Agents in their home countries also give bursaries and financial assistance to students. In many cases, extended family members have saved and gathered their money to give this opportunity to their family member, especially in cases where students will plan to study in Nova Scotia until graduation.
As Homestay Coordinators, it is important to be conscientious of the financial situations of students.
Canadians are fortunate to have one of the best education systems in the world and for many students this has drawn them to study in Nova Scotia. Some students choose to study abroad to gain experience and see the world. Other students have been given this opportunity by their parents as an opportunity to become more independent, gain maturity, and grow. Whatever the reason for their arrival in Nova Scotia,
they share their knowledge of their country with students and, as such, make the world a smaller place.
The main philosophy of the program is to enrich the lives of Nova Scotian students by introducing them to new ideas, new languages, and new cultures through the Nova Scotia International Student Program. It is with this philosophy in mind the number of students is limited in each school based on their home country. Having a large group of students from one country would create mini-ethnic groups in the school, separate them, and therefore reduce opportunities for Canadian students to meet and develop friendships with international students. Homestay Coordinators must remember this philosophy and encourage student interaction with the host family, students in the school, and the community.
The first program-organized event for students is usually student orientation weekend. This two-day overnight event is led by Homestay Coordinators. It is an opportunity for students to ask questions about their schools, new friends, and host families in a comfortable atmosphere. The students also sign a contract at this orientation. It is important to make every effort to make students feel comfortable during this weekend and to help them understand the Homestay Coordinator’s role is to be a support person for them.
A student orientation session should be comprised of a fun activity to help students become comfortable, some free time so they can mingle with other students and chat about their experience so far, and a classroom element where they learn the rules of the program and re-sign the student contracts. Icebreaker activities and games are an important element of the student orientation weekend.
At a Homestay Coordinator’s Conference a list of best practices was created for student orientation
The Nova Scotia International Student Program has prepared a Student Handbook which is distributed to students during orientation. Homestay Coordinators review the rules and guidelines with students and leave each student with a copy for their reference.
Student Evaluation Form
Three times during the year student evaluation forms will be sent to agents/ natural families from the Nova Scotia International Student Program. A copy of the evaluation form can be found in the HSC section of the website.
The evaluation form is given privately to the student and the host family. Their two forms are assembled into one form by the Homestay Coordinator and then the Homestay Coordinator adds their comments. The completed form (with input from all three parties) is sent to school board personnel and then submitted to the NSISP office. The NSISP office sends the completed reports to the agents who translate
them and send them to natural families.
These evaluations are the only official form of communication with natural families from the program. Therefore, they are highly valued by families. Homestay Coordinators will have many evaluations to compile and complete but remember each student has anxious parents at home waiting to learn about his/her progress. Take the time to make comments and encourage the host families and students to make
comments for the natural families to read and reflect on.
Encourage families to be honest. It is important to have host families understand the value of this evaluation and to remember this is not a forum to make requests of the program (i.e., to request money for student drives).
On-going regular communication with students is a must. Having an email group of your students is important so every student gets the same messages about upcoming events and activities.
It is also important to meet students face-to-face on a regular basis. Often students are reluctant to email a problem they are having but seeing their Homestay Coordinator in person makes it easier to confide their problem.
Homestay Coordinators may need to visit with students during class time, before or after school, or sometimes take them out for a coffee to discuss their problems/concerns. Be aware students may not wish to discuss a problem with their host family in the family home and may feel more comfortable doing so at a coffee shop or at school.
Often student concerns can be explained as a cultural difference or misunderstanding but when a student has a serious issue that needs to be dealt with it must be done in a timely manner. In some situations, students may be advised to seek professional help or assistance from the school guidance counsellor. Homestay Coordinators should be aware of the professional resources available for students having
difficulties beyond the scope of the program.