A new group of international high school students who will be studying in Fernie, Sparwood and Cranbrook will be arriving in September, and need homes.
New students for Fernie this fall include nine students from Germany, two from Mexico and one each from Brazil and Spain. Each year, the school district as a whole hosts over 100 international students, mainly from Mexico, Brazil, Germany and Japan, but with smaller numbers from Spain, Switzerland and Korea.
According to Martin Ross, District Development Officer for School District 5, the most common reason that international students choose Fernie is because of the excellent ski and snowboard opportunities offered by the Fernie Alpine Resort. But some students choose Fernie because they prefer a school with a smaller number of international students or because they are intrigued by the chance to experience life in a small town. “Almost all our Latin-American students come from cities of more than one million people where safety is an issue,” says Ross. “Teenagers may not be allowed to go anywhere on their own in their home country, so something as ordinary as walking down a residential street alone at night can be a thrill for them!”
Ross adds that, “Fernie is such a popular destination for international students that we could probably attract three times as many students if we had enough homestays to host them, but finding host families in Fernie is a constant challenge for us. The most reasonable explanations are that many houses belong to absentee owners and there are many seasonal workers that are also looking for accommodation in town.”
“Host families are the most important part of an international student’s experience in Canada because they are the ones who live most closely with the student. One of the highlights of the program is seeing the wonderful relationships that often develop between students and their homestay families. It’s amazing how many former students return to Fernie to visit their ‘second homes’ and their Canadian friends.”
Homestay families host students for many different reasons. Many host parents hope to expand the cultural horizons of their children. They enjoy celebrating birthdays and holidays in different ways, trying out their student’s favourite recipes from back home, and hearing different languages spoken in their home. Other host families have a heart for young people and love the additional activity, laughter and chatter their student brings to their home.
Families who would like to receive an information package about hosting international students for School District 5 should contact Fernie homestay coordinator, Kim Hopkins, at (250) 423-3191 or firstname.lastname@example.org.