The Canadian government has begun allowing approved educational institutions to accept new international students travelling from overseas. For homestay and accommodations staff, this was a huge step after months of hard work preparing to house students for mandatory self-isolation and for their post-quarantine classes.
“We’re so happy to be back,” says Carolina Cintra, National Accommodations Manager at ILSC Vancouver and Greystone College. After the COVID shutdown, the two schools resumed in-person classes in July, but only for current students and new students who were already in Canada.
Institutions must submit their reopening plans for approval to their provincial government. Some provinces are moving more quickly than others. ILSC and Greystone College Vancouver and Greystone College Montreal have received the green light from the Education Quality Assurance agency in BC and Quebec government.
Students arriving from overseas are given the option of undergoing self-isolation in a hotel or homestay, depending on availability. “The majority of students are requesting homestay for two reasons,” Cintra says. “First, the cost is usually cheaper than paying for a hotel room. Secondly, students feel safer knowing that there is someone in the home with them – even though there is little interaction.”
ILSC has about a dozen hosts providing quarantine and they are being paid extra for the service. They must meet stringent requirements – providing a private room and bathroom for the student, not being a member of a vulnerable group and following strict protocols. Hosts deliver three meals a day to the student’s room but otherwise have minimal contact. They must also agree to host the student just for the quarantine period.
“A few hosts have said that it’s awkward having a student in the house, serving them food but not really getting to know them,” Cintra says. Nevertheless, hosts are happy to be taking part in the successful return of students.
The homestay quarantine protocols are extensive. Some of them include:
- ILSC staff check in daily by phone with both students and hosts
- Students must monitor and report their temperature and any health concerns
- Both parties follow rigorous hygiene and cleanliness procedures
- Students must remain in their room/bathroom during the entire quarantine
While in quarantine, students take online classes and have the opportunity to receive mental health support and participate in online activities.
“Pre-COVID, we were careful about placing students,” Cintra says. “Now we have to be extra, extra careful and set out the expectations very clearly. We are working very hard to make sure that it goes well and that we are doing what the government has asked us to do.”