Loving life: Allison and Gunnar Valentine with one of their students Kazue Hidaka.
Loving life: Allison and Gunnar Valentine with one of their students Kazue Hidaka.

Bridging world gaps

IF you’re looking for a taste of another culture without having to leave home, Southern Cross University could have the answer.

The university’s English Language Centre is set to host an information night for anyone interested in participating in the Homestay program, through which they can become host for an international student.

Local couple Allison and Gunnar Valentine have four international students living with them – two from China, one from Japan and one from Venezuela.

“We really enjoy talking to them about where they come from. It’s a very rewarding experience and the students are happy to participate as part of the family, and to be included in family outings and events,” Allison said.

“The girls’ English has just improved in leaps and bounds and we are really pleased that we have been able to contribute to that.”

Allison said knowing the students were part of the university’s program and had certain criteria to meet was another benefit.

Students ranging from high school to university age visit Coffs Harbour for short English language programs of one to three weeks as well as long-term programs, which run for a minimum of 10 weeks.

My Holland, international student advisor and homestay co-ordinator, said the Homestay program provided benefits for the students and the families who hosted them. “We have a number of short-stay programs coming up with students from Japan and China, as well as long-stay students, and we are looking to increase the number of host families we have on our books,” Ms Holland said.

“Living in an English speaking home provides a great opportunity for our students, and at the same time families get to experience another culture without leaving home. For many couples and families with children, it’s a very rewarding activity.”

Host families received a weekly payment and in return were expected to provide accommodation, meals, access to household facilities and inclusion in family activities.

Families or individuals interested in hosting students for either short or long-term stays will need to undergo the working with children check.

The information session will be held at SCU’s Coffs Harbour Campus on Tuesday, May 11.

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