A new Business program is ready to start in Smithers in May — but only if homes are found for the international students making it possible.
Northwest Community College (NWCC) is asking anyone with a room to rent or families willing to offer the experience of the home stay program to contact the college or its international director Derek Lemieux.
Twenty visiting students — many of whom have never seen snow or ice before — need a place by spring. Since the course lasts two years, 40 places to stay in Smithers will need to be found by the next school year.
In a town short on rental space, home stay may be the best option. It is like having a new member of the family, with the idea being the new young person joins the family on outings to the ski hill, ice rink or even just for dinners.
NWCC international coordinator Hyeyoung Kang was an international student herself when she moved to Canada from South Korea in 2010. She has been busy organizing events for the international students who have arrived in Terrace where the whole community is welcome to join.
Kang said the diversity brought to Terrace has been most welcome and can see the benefit of more cultures coming to Smithers.
“You feel more dynamic in your community,” she told the crowd gathered to hear about the program at the Smithers District Chamber of Commerce last Thursday.
She made the point by quoting one of the Terrace host families:
“Only in Canada do we have Mexican students at a Diwali (Hindu festival of lights) celebration in a First Nations longhouse.”
If successful, an international coordinator position may created just for Smithers. Kang is now based in Terrace.
Other jobs would also be filled. Smithers businesses said in a survey done two years ago that their number one concern was finding good help for entry level positions. International students looking for part-time work during school and full-time work in the summer are eager to help, according to Kang.
The international students mostly come for the academic courses, which is why NWCC is looking to expand its business course into Smithers. There are not enough local students to make such courses viable without bringing in international students, according to Lemieux.
The international program started two years ago with seed funding from the Province, but is now completely self-funded.
Finding willing tenants and families is necessary because of the process required to build housing for a college — government involvement would be necessary for approval.
The home stay program involves cooking meals for the student either two or three times per day, and making them feel a part of the home.
“The home stay is more geared to students who are looking for family experience and want to be part of the family, and that’s what the expectation is,” explained Lemieux.
Expansion of programs that would bring in international students to all the campuses, including Hazelton, is a long-term goal, according to Lemieux.