Faculty, staff invited to share holiday cheer with international students

While many Brock students head home for the holidays to spend time with family and friends, hundreds of international students are unable to make that journey.

Brock International’s Home for the Holidays program invites faculty and staff to welcome international students into their homes for a memorable holiday experience.

The program, which runs from Friday, Dec. 22 to Monday Jan. 8, asks host families to open their doors during the festive season and invite students to share in a holiday meal, activity or event. This could mean welcoming students to participate in some holiday baking, watching a favourite movie or taking in a popular winter activity like ice skating.

Last year, International Student Advisor Kelsey Labbé took three international students from India and China to Ball’s Falls Conservation Area to experience its annual Holiday Trail celebration, which includes thousands of sparkling lights decorating the trees, musical acts, winter activities and the opportunity to make s’mores around a campfire.

“None of them had ever had s’mores before,” said Labbé. “They seemed to really enjoy the whole process of making and then eating them.”

Labbé, who works for Brock International, said other hosts have noted that in addition to students being able to share in Canadian holiday traditions, their families also learned a lot about the students’ cultures and traditions.

“It was kind of like an educational experience interacting with the students who told them about their holiday traditions, foods and decorations, so it is definitely a positive encounter for everyone involved,” she said.

Brock Faith and Life Assistant Chaplain Hilda Vander Klippe highly recommends staff and faculty consider hosting an international student over the holidays, calling it “a totally positive experience.”

As host, Vander Klippe combined an outing to see the Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls with a Christmas meal for three students who were unable to go home over the holidays.

“Probably the one of the best things about participating in this program is getting to know the students while sharing family Christmas traditions and giving the students a family experience during the Christmas holidays,” she said.

Fourth-year Public Health student Joyce Adio, who is from Nigeria, was one of the students hosted by Vander Klippe. Adio enjoyed her first visit to Niagara Falls and has fond memories of getting to know her host and other students during a traditional Christmas dinner.

“It was nice as we talked about how our lives were at the time and spoke about what our home countries were like at the time we came for our studies,” she said.

To register as a host for the program, fill out a short form on the Home for the Holidays website. Registration is open until Friday, Dec. 8.

Both international students and prospective hosts looking to learn more about Home for the Holidays are invited to attend an online information session on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at noon. Advance registration through ExperienceBU is required.

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