Vancouver is having a record summer for international students, and they all need a place to stay. The Cypress Homestay agency has been calling us to see if we have room. For two years my husband and I hosted students as it is a great mortgage helper and we were paid over $700 a month for renting out our spare room to students who would stay about a month at a time. The students range in age from 21 to 50.
The reason we haven’t been hosting is because my husband hasn’t been here during the week and it really needs both of us as we bring different hospitality needs to the equation. When I’m home I’m usually tired from work and not so good at cheerful conversation with a non-native English speaker. My husband, however, is great at it. Whenever a new student arrived he was fantastic at showing them how to get the bus to their school and taking them on a driving tour of Vancouver. Each student would stay about a month and we would have new ones in spring through fall, so he did it quite a number of times. He was very patient at explaining how the washing machine worked, had a number of brochures at the ready to show them local amenities and attractions, and was excellent at welcoming them.
My role was to make sure that they were set up with breakfast in the morning and dinner in the evening. I was great at having menus all planned and for cooking. I’d get the food ready and he would help them practice their English by asking them all about their days. If they just had to put up with me they’d just see me tired and wanting to read the newspaper quietly by myself.
The income we received was pretty good and it would have been even better with two students if we had the space since making more food for another person isn’t much more trouble and they could talk to each other. It would get frustrating though since I had to uphold my end of the obligation of having dinner ready at the same time every day when they’d turn up late, or I’d give up plans for friends since I needed to cook and got late notice that our student was going to eat out with friends that evening. Having everything all put away and having someone roll in at 9pm (which is the normal supper time for some of them back home) and expecting me to put dinner out for them was hard.
In some ways it was a pain in the neck having to do orientation every month or so, but we usually had a break of a few weeks between students so it was nice to not have to be on dinner duty for a while.
I am quite certain that this is how so many people in Vancouver can afford houses here. I haven’t seen any statistics about it, but I have met a number of families who use this as a way to make ends meet. I know someone who usually has two or three students at a time (the agency always makes sure that they have different first languages so that the students are forced to work on their English) and this is how she pays her mortgage. She says her kids do the English practice with them over dinner and the students like to watch TV in the evenings with her kids. She is the one who told me that you have to set out quiet hours as well as specific times where it is too late or too early for them to shower or have phone calls home as she was awoken a few too many times by water running or loud conversations after midnight.
On the weekends the students often took advantage of tours offered through school, but we were advised that if we went out and did something that we would need to include our student. If we went out for dinner we’d have to either offer to cook something at home for them or invite them with us with the understanding that they would pay for their own restaurant meal. The idea is to include the student in your family. Some people had wonderful students and made friends for life, and have someone to show them around when they visit another part of the world.