From student to host

Hosts: Will and Anya


When I came to Canada 12 years ago, I didn’t just want to learn the language, I wanted to learn Canadian culture, traditions, history, people and the beautiful landscape. My homestay provided me with plenty of opportunities to achieve my purpose. We watched movies together, we went to museums together, we had debates and discussions, and they introduced me to their friends and extended families. I showed them everything I knew about China, so they could understand where I came from. These experiences would be impossible had I lived alone. It’s essential to emphasize that international students come here to learn more than just English. Homestay is the perfect bridge to establish knowledge sharing between two countries.

As a former international student, I recognize that learning English doesn’t just happen in classrooms. It’s true that the majority of their learning comes from the classroom environment. However, if one truly desires to become better in spoken and written English, s/he has to socialize using English. My Host had a brilliant idea to help me overcome the barrier of limited vocabulary. We played “the word of the day” at dinner table every night when we ate together. It really helped me to broaden my vocabulary. I carry the same tradition with my homestay students. We not only teach them new words at the dinner table, but also encourage them to use these words over and over again by forming sentences or making stories. Repetition solidifies learning and forms understanding. We also encourage them to join us in parties and socialize with our friends in English.

My Host family and I were very close and we still keep in touch now. They were at our wedding when we got married in 2008. They still treat me as a part of their family. I was very lucky to have them as my host parents.

Both Host parents are influential role models in my life. My Host Mom taught me the important lessons on being independent. She pushed me to get a part-time job while going to school. After I started taking regular classes at UVic, at one point, I was working at three part time jobs and taking four classes per semester. She taught me the essence of hard work, honesty, and respect. Heather showed me ways to be more open-minded and how to see things from other points of view. This skill was important to me because it helped me to ease off my stubbornness and acknowledge the fact that there are two sides on one coin. Later when I participated in in-class discussions or chats in social environments, I was able to understand Canadians’ viewpoints on certain issues better.

My Host Dad taught me skills I would have never gained in China with my circumstances. He taught me how to play guitar. The first song he taught me was “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton. I later played this song for Anya at our wedding. Dave also ignited the athlete in me and introduced me to weight training. When I left China in 2000, strength training in the gym was not popular and I had no concept of weight training. He showed me how to lift weights properly. Three years later, I became the first international student as a personal trainer working at the Ian Stewart Complex. Besides guitar and personal training, Dave also helped me with personal financing. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki was the first book my Host dad gave me, and it changed my entire worldview on personal financing. To this day, he’s still my financial advisor and sends me finance-related books to keep me educated.

My little Host brother, plays an important role in my life too. When I first joined my Host’s household, my host brother was three years old. He was still learning to say certain words. One day I had an epiphany that I should follow my Host brother and learn English like a child. That’s exactly what I did. I would learn how to pronounce words like he did. I would read bed time stories to him so that my pronunciation and enunciation were clear and proper enough for a three-year-old to understand. My Host brother is now 15 years old, and we play sports and Wii games together.


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From student to host