International students hosted by local families for the holidays
Many students at Wilfrid Laurier University are unable to go back to their home country for the holidays due to the vast distance and the costs associated with traveling over the holidays.
However, four years ago, Wilfrid Laurier International started a holiday host program directed towards accommodating international students.
According to Charlene Mak, the international programs coordinator at Laurier International, the program is particularly intended for international students and members of the Laurier community who play host to international students.
“The program essentially just started with a couple of students and a couple of staff members mentioning to us that if any international students are on campus over the holidays, that they are welcome to come over for Christmas dinner. Or we’d see students and they’d [ask], “is anything happening over the Christmas break? We’re not doing anything,”” she said.
International students and hosts will fill out a survey to determine when and where the celebration should be. Laurier International then facilitates releasing contact information.
The program and the celebration is also an opportunity for the international students and hosts to introduce themselves, as well as give the location of the holiday celebration and other important information about the gathering.
“We have a lot of students that apply who are very far away from their home countries or who don’t have any family in Canada,” said Mak.
This program allows for these students to still celebrate and even share some of their traditions with their holiday hosts.
Mak also said she received a lot of great feedback from both participants and hosts when she hosted the program.
“I found the greatest feedback though, was from staff members who don’t necessarily interact with international students on a daily basis,” said Mak.
“It is a way to get a perspective of their holidays and traditions back home. It’s really kind of neat. It’s really a lot of work, but every year, we keep doing it because there is always people interested.”
Mak also explained that there are always a couple of new people that find out about the program and want to get involved in the holiday tradition. Staff members, particularly, become excited for this program, and are receiving great feedback. According to Mak, this is why Laurier international puts a lot of work into organizing this program.
“Every year, we put out the surveys [and] we have the same staff members asking us about it. They wait for these surveys and are excited about it. It is a great way to have both students and staff engaged over the holidays.”