Homestay accommodations bring mixed reviews

Some students enjoy their homestays, others don’t

This story has been updated since initially published.

Homestays can be rewarding, but difficult for some. Photo: Takaichi Kogata

Homestay, living with Halifax families, is a popular choice for accommodations for international students going to university.

Saint Mary’s University offers homestay placements for English as a Second Language students that include airport pickup, three meals a day, a bedroom and a quiet place to study.

Other international students can look to Kijiji to find ads like these for homestay placements as well.

Samantha Burns, an accommodation assistant at the accommodation office in the Language Centre at SMU, says that during the fall semester about 60 students were placed in homestay accommodations.

This semester, enrollment in general is lower, due to winter weather, and about 10 students are placed.

After their placements, students fill out feedback forms. Most of that shows families being helpful, showing the students around Halifax, how to use the bus and taking them to tourist attractions like Peggys Cove, says Burns.

Andong Wang, a SMU commerce student from China, says he stayed in a homestay last year for two semesters.

Wang says it was helpful for him learning English, as his host mother helped him study for one to three hours a day.

He was introduced to their family friends and taken to church, which he says helped him get to know Nova Scotia.

He now lives in an apartment and misses not having to cook or clean. One thing he doesn’t miss?

“My friends would have parties and I couldn’t go because I couldn’t come home too late,” Wang says.

Rasuta Takemura, a SMU student from Japan says his experience with homestay was quite different.

He has done it three times, once in Calgary and twice in Halifax.

Homestay, he says, wasn’t what he expected.

He wanted to live with young people who he could play sports with, and have a pet. However, he was placed with a lady who was about 80 years old.

“The reason I chose homestay was because I would be able to speak English with a Canadian, but the grandmother always went to bed at 9 p.m., so I had no chance to speak English,” he says.

A friend invited him to join in on his homestay, not affiliated with the Language Centre, but that one was even worse, he says.

“The rooms were dirty. There were children who were seven and 12 years old, and they often had arguments with their parents and were crying everyday,” he says.

He said he was supposed to get three meals a day, and got only one.

“The most terrible thing was that they didn’t give me back (my) deposit which was supposed to be returned unless I caused problems. I asked them again and again, but they did nothing.”

Wang said if given the opportunity to do homestay again, he would. Takemura said he would not.

Update: Jan. 21: This story has been updated to clarify Takemura's second homestay was not through the Language Centre at Saint Mary's University. Jan 21: An earlier version of this story referred to the Language Centre as the TESL Centre, An earlier version of the story referred to Burns as an administrator.