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Exchange student group requires host family immediately to house high schooler

'Host families walk away with really rich experiences. I think there’s a connection that lasts a lifetime with the student that comes in. ... This is like travelling the world without actually leaving home.'
International students who are participating in the YES Canada program gather for a group picture in front of the CN Tower in Toronto. Photo courtesy Instagram

An international student exchange program that has brought dozens of high schoolers to the area over the years to experience Canadian culture has unexpectedly found itself requiring an extra host family. 

YES Canada has partnered with Prairie South School Division for nearly two years, which sees the organization recruit students from around the world to experience the Great White North and explore this country’s culture, language and way of life. 

An important part of that experience is living with a host family.

Students who come are between the ages of 14 to 18 — the most common ages are 15 to 16 — while the student who requires an immediate host family is 15 years old and already in the area, explained Graham Vogt, national homestay and recruitment manager. 

Meanwhile, the organization will require homestay families in the coming months, as it expects more students to arrive in April and September.

“So, our need for homestay (families) is ongoing (because) because we’re always looking for homes families in Moose Jaw and surrounding areas,” said Vogt. 

Host families would open their homes to students and provide them with a warm, safe, caring environment that includes three meals a day, he continued. Furthermore, a youth would require a bedroom, a place to keep clothing and a quiet place to study — which may include a desk.

“Beyond that, it’s important to note there’s nothing fancy (about this). We don’t expect our host families to be tour guides. It’s not really about that,” said Vogt. “It’s about being immersed in the family and the surrounding community. 

“We have found that host families will — inevitably — find that they are a little more connected to the things happening in their community than they would be when they have an international student in their home because there is that element of hosting.”

The overall program is going well, while YES Canada has placed dozens of youths from New Zealand, France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, South America and elsewhere into the high schools in Moose Jaw and area, Vogt said. 

Moreover, these principals are “quite thrilled” with the program since the international students have added to the diversity, community and programming of the schools with the ways they have become involved, he continued.  

More than 20 international students are learning this year in Prairie South School Division, but they are disbursed throughout the area so they don’t overwhelm one location and can offer a different cultural flavour. 

“Host families walk away with really rich experiences. I think there’s a connection that lasts a lifetime with the student that comes in … ,” Vogt said. “This is like travelling the world without actually leaving home.”

YES Canada has heard stories from host families of how they have remained in contact with their youth after the student has returned home, he continued. For example, some families have travelled overseas to attend the wedding of a youth who stayed with them.

Besides being enriched culturally and relationally, families usually rediscover what’s happening in their own communities because of their efforts to give their international students a Canadian experience, Vogt added.

To host an international student, visit

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