International students embrace SD&G experience

By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario – Despite the cold weather, dozens of international students had no trouble warming up to their host families in Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry.

It wasn’t your typical crowd at the South Stormont Community Hall on Sunday, Dec. 7.

High school students from Germany, Mexico, China, and Korea enjoyed a traditional potluck dinner/gift exchange as a DJ pumped out radio hits. Meanwhile, some students were out helping the local fire department with their annual boot drive.

Their connection to SD&G stems from a partnership between Canada Homestay Network and the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB).

Laura Christina, of Brazil, and Susana Torres, of Columbia, had plenty of great things to say about Avonmore’s Laurie and Shawn McAlear, their “second family.”

“We’re having so much fun,” said Christina. “Everyone is so nice here.”

The McAlears have been a host family for the last four years. With all five of their own children living across Ontario, having new additions in the household filled a void.

“They keep us young,” said Shawn.

Both Christina and Torres agreed that embracing a Canadian winter is no easy task. But they’re up for skating, snowflakes, snowmen, maple taffy, and tobogganing.

On weekends, the foursome has travelled across the province, visiting tourism staples in Niagara Falls and Toronto, as well as taking camping trips.

Two weeks before Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was gunned down while standing guard at the National War Monument in Ottawa, they were there on a visit to the nation’s capital. The students considered spending Remembrance Day in Ottawa a highlight of their visit.

Brenda Manning, relationship manager at Canada Homestay Network (CHN), says there are 350 international students in Grades 9-12 living in the UCDSB region, from Sept. to Jan. or Sept. to June; 90 are currently in SD&G.

“We’re constantly looking for families to be a part of the hosting experience,” said Manning. “The relationships that are made really last.”

Students are enjoying their experience so much, CHN hired a new manager, Julie Whalley, to keep up with the demand for new hosts.

For more information, visit or call Brenda Manning toll free at 1-877-441-4443 ext. 2943.

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