The new school year is still months away, but at Golden Hills School Division, the International Program Office is in its busy season. One of the hardest parts of the program is finding families for international kids to live with during the school year.
Although Drumheller Valley Secondary School has on-site dormitories, some students' families prefer to send their children to live with a homestay family.
DVSS teacher Virginia Sakofsky has been a homestay mom for the past seven years and has hosted 11 students during that time.
"Being a homestay mom, the best part is seeing our culture through somebody else's perspective," she said. "Things that we often take for granted become new and a novelty. From the first snowfall to building snowmen, to washing a car, just every day life [becomes new]."
Despite the challenges that being a homestay family might present, Sakofsky doesn't regret the experience.
"It's one of the most rewarding experiences that I've had, and fulfilling as well. Especially when the students come back on their own accord to spend spring break here or come back to hang out and chat."
One of Sakofsky's former homestay children is Natalia Villicana. She attended school in Drumheller four years ago and is back now for a visit with her friends and Canadian family. She said her experience would not have been as genuine as it was if she had not participated in the homestay program.
"First, I was at the dorms and then I [went] to Virginia's house," she explained. "I really enjoyed that part because I think that I got the real Canadian experience by going to a family. And, now I feel like part of a family here."
Villicana admitted that she was forced to grow as a person while in Sakofsky's house. She explained that in her home country of Mexico, it's common for people to have staff to clean up after the family. In Canada, not so much.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the program, including how to participate, can contact Michelle Wiley at the Golden Hills International Program Office, 403-934-5121 ext. 2054 or [email protected].