In the McGill ICU-SEA program, you will be staying in a homestay with a Canadian family. In Canada, families are all very different, so each student’s homestay will be very different. Some families have children, some don’t. In many Canadian homes, all the adults have jobs, and people are very busy.
The homestays are not arranged directly by McGill University. Before you come to Canada, the homestay company will contact you and ask you to complete an online questionnaire so they can match you to the best family for you. This is important for health – many Canadian homes have pets (cats or dogs), so if you have an allergy or special medical conditions, the homestay company needs to know. They will keep your information confidential.
Montreal is a big city, and McGill University is downtown, in the center of the city. Most homestay homes are not near the university. You will have to take a bus or metro to come to school every day, between 20 and 50 minutes, depending on where your home is. Your host family will help show you how to take public transportation to McGill.
Communication is Important
The host family wants to make you feel comfortable. Every family has its own rules and ways of living. They will explain it at the beginning, but it is possible that when you first arrive, you are tired and you may not understand everything. Don’t be shy about asking questions if you don’t understand, and expressing that you like or don’t like something. If you are concerned about something in your homestay, you can also ask your teacher or one of your monitors for advice or an explanation.
Every family has its own rules and ways of living, and Canadians have different personal culture. They will explain everything at the beginning, but it is possible that when you first arrive, you are tired and you may not understand it all. Often, host families have rules about laundry and times you can do things. For example, maybe they will say you can’t take a shower after 10 PM, because it is noisy. Other families don’t care. Just remember, everyone is different, so your experience may be different than the other students on your program.
In general, if you are staying in homestay, you get a private room with a bed and a desk. Normally you have to share a bathroom. You will have internet in your home, but in Canada, many internet services have maximum limits for downloads, so please discuss downloading with the family. Homestay hosts will provide internet, but not a computer or printer – you need your own device. You will be able to use the laundry machines (washer and dryer) to wash your clothes. In Canada, some people hang their clothes to dry, but drying machines are popular. Sometimes, a homestay host has more than one international student living in the home.
Most homestay plans are for three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and supper. In the morning, you may have to serve yourself your own breakfast, because sometimes your hosts have to leave the house very early to go to work. You will have a bag lunch every day when you go to school. In Canada, many people have a small lunch at work or school, and often it is cold – a sandwich and fruit. Supper is usually in the early evening (6 PM or 7 PM) and this is the meal that you will probably eat with your host family.
Remember, if you need help to contact your homestay company about a problem, or have questions, you can ask your teacher or your monitor, or the program coordinator.
Image courtesy Paola Samano, McGill University