Students from all over the world are travelling thousands of miles to get a slice of what school is like in Louis Riel School Division.
Almost 200 students from about 20 countries are arriving in Winnipeg this month through the International Students Program. Students from elementary to post-secondary come to study and learn about Canadian culture. Homestay families host international students and all families apply and are evaluated before students go to homes.
Victoria and Chris Marek will be a host family for the third time this year. The last two years they hosted a student from Thailand their son befriended at school.
"We had an extra room in the house and already a full house and why not add one more?" Victoria said.
The Thai student graduated last year with the Mareks’ daughter.
"We had a barbecue for him for his friends to say goodbye and 75 kids came. It was amazing," Victoria said.
"We took him to all the family events. He got to experience snow, skating, hockey games, so it was really neat to see all of these things through the eyes of someone who had never seen them."
This year, the Marek family will host Marwan Ibrahim from Cairo, Egypt. Victoria says her kids were a little nervous when the family first started hosting, but this year her son has already befriended Ibrahim.
This is the first time Ibrahim has left Egypt.
"It’s been my dream since one year ago especially because it’s so hard to get a visa to come here," Ibrahim said. He plans on staying in Canada for two years to graduate from high school.
"At first I felt lonely. It was so hard to come here alone," said Ibrahim, whose first language is Arabic. But he’s happy taking on the new challenge.
"I have many things to learn especially a new language."
With more students comes more cost. Students pay fees to cover the cost of having them in the classroom and room and board with homestays.
Duane Brothers, LRSD superintendent, says the international students provide as much as they receive.
"To watch international students together with their homestay brothers and sisters, it’s pretty powerful," said Brothers.
Brothers also says it’s a tremendous way to diversify our schools.
"When you start mixing in kids who have just arrived from Brazil, Saudi Arabia, China and Korea, it’s just helping to reinforce what a global village we’re starting to work and live in."