Thinking of living in Homestay?

What is Homestay?

Homestay is a program designed to promote friendship, language learning and provide opportunities for cultural exchange between Canadians and international students who attend Vancouver Island University or the High School at VIU. Local residents open their homes to students, so they may experience friendship across cultures. Many life-long friendships have developed from these homestay experiences. In fact, many host families have traveled to their students' countries for weddings and visits.

About the Homestay Program

Living with a Canadian family means you have a support system to help you adjust to your new environment. Hosts will be happy to help you get a bank account (in your name only), show you how to use the bus system and community centres, and treat you like part of the family. Use the opportunity to practice your English, ask questions about homework, do activities with your host family, and more. Living with a homestay family means that you will have to put effort into the relationship, but like all relationships, the more you put in, the more rewards you receive. Many students find that their Canadian host family becomes like a second family, their life-long "Canadian family."

  1. Become familiar with, understand, and follow the routines of the Homestay family. Hosts should provide a written set of house rules which they will review with students. Please ask questions so you understand the hosts expectations.
  2. Discuss any food preferences or needs with the hosts so they can understand what you need to feel comfortable.
  3. Canadian food is probably different from what you are used to eating in your country. Try to adapt to a Canadian diet because it is part of the learning experience. If there are foods that only you eat, you should purchase them for yourself.
  4. Always tell the hosts if you will be away overnight and leave a telephone number where you can be contacted. Tell them when you will be home.
  5. Always tell your hosts if you will not be home for the evening meal or if you will be arriving home late in the evening. Host families worry about students, just like your own family. Be considerate of this.
  6. Always leave your hosts a telephone number in case of an emergency. Canadians are offended, worried and may become angry if you ignore these practices. Family members call if they are going to be late coming home or will not be home for a meal.
  7. Ask the hosts before inviting guests to the home. You are welcome to have friends visit you at the home but you must always ask your hosts before inviting your friends over. If you have family or friends that visit you and wish to stay with you at your host family home, they should pay the same nightly rate to the host that you pay. This arrangement MUST be planned with the host family in advance and the visitors should not stay at the host’s home for more that 5 nights. The Homestay family is NOT obligated to host your family and/or friends.
  8. Absolutely no use of drugs, alcohol or any sexual activity in the host’s home. Using drugs or alcohol, or having sexual relations in the home are not permitted.
  9. Clean your own room and bathroom after you use it. Help the hosts wash the dishes after the evening meal or clean up after yourself after you have prepared a snack. Learn to wash your own laundry, change your bed sheets regularly and learn to prepare your own breakfast and lunch.

Living with another international student in the Homestay 

More than one student may be in the same homestay. The Homestay office tries not to place students of the same language group. The maximum number of students in the same homestay family is normally two, unless there is an emergency which requires otherwise.

Fees for university programs including undergraduate, graduate, trades and vocational programs, and upgrading and preparatory programs.

  • Application fee$250
  • Deposit (refundable) = $850 (Applicable to all Homestay students).
  • Homestay with meals = $850/month and $29/night (includes food for three meals a day).
  • Homestay without meals = $500 and $17/night (does not include food). See application for details.
  • Homestay fees are payable on the first day of each month.

The High School at VIU Homestay Fees

Homestay Program fees for students attending VIU and The High School at VIU will be increasing at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. Please see the section below titled Homestay Program Fee Increase 2020 for more information about the upcoming changes.

* Fees are subject to change

VIU Homestay Program fees are increasing at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. Details about the changes can be found below. 

The Homestay Program fee change for students who are registered in undergraduate, graduate, trades and vocational programs, and upgrading and preparatory programs will take effect for May 01, 2021. 

  • Application fee = $275
  • VIU Monitoring Fee = $50/month
  • Homestay with meals = $900/month and $32/night
  • Homestay without meals = $600/month and $20/night

The Homestay Program fee change for students who are registered at The High School at VIU will take effect for July 1, 2021.

  • Application fee = $275
  • VIU Monitoring Fee = $50/month
  • Homestay with meals = $950/month and $33/night

In addition to rate changes, there have been changes made to the overall fee structure of the program. Key changes include that Implementation of the VIU Monitoring Fee (payable to VIU) and the removal of the Homestay Deposit. In addition, VIU will collect all fees from students and will pay fees on behalf of the student to the homestay host.

Short-term placements, Custom Programs, ELCP Programs, and Summer Camp Programs at The High School at VIU which are 31 days or less in length are subject to a Short Term Fee Schedule. Contact for more information or to request a quote.

VIU Homestay fee changes for May 01, 2021

Matching a host family and a student is done with much care and thought. We consider the host availability, activities/hobbies and interests of the host and student, if there are any medical concerns (allergies), whether there are children in the home, if people smoke tobacco, and many other factors when arranging for a homestay placement. The more accurate the information provided a student provides in the Homestay Application, the more information we will have to determine a good placement opportunity.

Please note: Vancouver Island University cannot guarantee that all student personal preferences will be met.

Canada is a multicultural society which values and respects the diversity of all Canadians. Many different kinds of Canadian families participate in the Homestay Program. Many Canadians speak other languages and are immigrants themselves, but English must be the primary spoken language in the home.

Language in the home – students and hosts

Many host families in Canada speak languages other than English. It is both policy and practice that host families speak only English to students. It is our policy that families should use English as the primary language in the home.

Living with a Canadian family has many challenges. When you arrive, everything will be new: food, school, friends, family, social expectations, gender roles, communication styles, pace of life, and much more. Living with a Canadian family means that you have someone to help you through this very difficult time, but you have to put in effort as well. Ask questions and be open to trying new things, such as different foods and new ways to doing things. The first semester (4 months) is usually the most difficult, so prepare yourself! You will feel good, bad, homesick, frustrated, angry, sad, and then happy again. This stressful situation is called "culture shock". Some students find this extremely difficult. It's a time when they cannot sleep, they eat too much or can't eat at all. Other student want to hide in their rooms or simply leave Canada. These feelings will pass. These feelings are normal, so you can expect them in varying intensities. Everyone experiences culture shock differently. Most importantly, speak with someone about how you are feeling and stay active. Talk about how you feel with your host family, your teacher(s), any staff member or visit the Homestay office. We have all had these same experiences and can help.

The Homestay Program is an approved activity under the Co Curricular Record (CCR). The CCR at VIU encourages a more holistic academic and career development for VIU students by building upon their accumulating skills and experiences.

The Faculty of International Education believes that by participating in the Homestay program, students and host families experience learning and skill development.

The Homestay program focuses on the following Graduate Attributes: Capacity to Engage in Respectful Relationships,  Collaboration, Ethical Reasoning, Intercultural Perspective, and Oral Communication.

Participants in the Homestay program are eligible for recognition
on the VIU Co-Curricular Record once they complete a Homestay term.

Apply to Homestay Today!

If you are an international student, and want to apply to the Homestay Program. The Homestay program focuses on helping students build an intercultural perspective, collaborate, build respectful relationships, and build communication skills. Now accepting applications for Spring 2021. Applications submitted with less than 6 weeks processing time may be assessed a $100 rush placement fee.

Apply Now

Important: Please consider living with a Canadian family only if you are serious about wanting to challenge yourself in this way. Canada is a country of immigrants from other countries, who bring their cultures and experiences with them. Host families are from a variety of racial and religious backgrounds.

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Homestay Student Testimonials

“The best thing was that I could learn true Canadian cultures with a real Canadian family. I think I learned a lot of things that I could not learn if I haven’t spent my study abroad with my Canadian host family. They always helped me out with improving my English skill. They always answered my small and big questions and sometimes they even challenged me. That meant a lot to me.”

- Miyu Tsujino, Homestay Program Student


“In terms of the language, I would have never been able to improve my skills without my host family. Besides, they were always supportive and caring, which helped me very much especially when I was going through a hard time. I am so thankful to my host family for giving me one of the best experiences I've had in my whole life. I love them very much and will always miss them.”

- Kaori Tsuji, Homestay Program Student 

Want to learn more from students who have attended VIU's ELC and academic programs?

Read more testimonials