Student Homestay

An important part of your participation in the NSISP is your home stay experience. The best way to learn English and Canadian culture is by being a member of a host family. This is why students are placed with host families in the community instead of living on their own. 

Host Families

Families in Nova Scotia come in all shapes and sizes. Some host families have two parents with children, some have no children, and others have only one parent. All host families are carefully chosen and screened prior to their participation in the home stay program.

How will I fit in with my host family?

Many families enjoy participating in activities together.

In summer they travel, hike, swim, and have social times together. In winter many families ski, skate, watch movies, or attend various concerts and sports events.

What to expect in a Nova Scotia Home

Be prepared to be part of a Nova Scotia family. Your host family is participating in the program because they want to meet someone from another country. They will welcome you into their home as though you were their own child. Your family will be anxious to show you the sights and introduce you to their family and friends.

Your host families will:

  • provide you with a private bedroom
  • provide food for three balanced meals per day
  • provide laundry facilities
  • invite and encourage participation in family events and travel
  • show local culture and visit some highlights of the area
  • explain family rules and expectations be familiar with program rules (link to ‘getting acquainted…’)
  • provide use of common areas in the home (living room, family room, etc.)
  • allow use of telephone and appropriate computer according to family house rules (link to ‘getting acquainted…’)
  • encourage involvement in daily functions of family life (meal preparation, clean up etc.)
  • provide guidance and advice for school and social problems
  • whenever possible, provide transportation to the school or other local sites to facilitate their participation in extra-curricular activites

Things that may be different than home

  • pets
  • maids
  • meal times
  • chores​
  • transportation
  • showers
  • meal preparation
  • curfews
  • computer use 

Getting Acquainted

In the first few hours and days, your host family will probably ask you questions about yourself. The questions are usually about your trip, the weather in your home country, and why you decided to come to Nova Scotia to study. These questions are an expression of genuine interest. Your host family is excited to have a new member join their family. However, even with the questions, the first few hours and days may seem a little awkward. This will soon pass however and everyone will feel more comfortable as time passes on.

The first few weeks: the adjustment period

Getting active is the best way to experience new places and new things. Every place in the world is different. The lifestyles some people find normal, other people will find strange. Remember, choosing to come to Nova Scotia is an opportunity to experience something different, so relax and enjoy.

Culture shock and international students

Culture shock happens to all international students in varying degrees. At orientation NSISP representatives discuss culture shock and methods of dealing with the problem.

Four phases to be aware of

The Honeymoon

Students are excited about their new experiences and surroundings. Students will begin to associate Canada with their home country. They will also look for similarities between the two, and this helps them feel more comfortable.


Students start to feel a little disorientated. They will start to notice the differences between Canadian living and home. At this point the student might feel the most homesick. Most students do not display strong symptoms however some may get sleepier or need more time alone away from the host family. Keep the lines of communication open during this time as the student may want to talk about their feelings.


Students feel more comfortable, relaxed and secure within their surroundings.

Home free

Students are now members of the family. Students will begin to enjoy the differences of their new life. They will also display more confidence and feel at home with their host family.

Students will go through these stages at different paces and some may not experience any culture shock. Culture shock is temporary for most students. With a little understanding and guidance from the host family, students can recover quickly.

Help yourself to get adjusted

Nova Scotia schools offer many extra curricular activities including sports, arts, and music. The NSISP encourages students to involve themselves in activities. International students have played on local sports teams, were involved in local music groups, and have participated in their high school theatre production, to name a few. It is important that international students meet new people and get involved in activities. It helps to make their time in Nova Scotia more memorable.

Again, this is why taking part in extra-curricular activities is part of the contract you signed when agreeing to participate in the NSISP.

Host Family Rules

Prior to undertaking this international program it is imperative that students and their parents understand that the students will be subject to the rules and procedures of their host family.

  • Your host family will treat you as a regular family member.
  • Students will have the same responsibilities as every other member of the family. This will include contributing to the completion of household chores, and respecting any other rules (eg: curfews) set by your host family.
  • In accordance with the above, student’s liberties may vary from that which they are ordinarily accustomed in their own home. This is part of the experience. All reasonable rules must be followed.
  • If there is a discrepancy students are encouraged to contact their home-stay coordinator with questions or concerns about any host family policy.
  • Further, all students have a right to essential privacy in their home-stay; however the host family at their discretion reserves the right to search any room or item found within their home.

Topics/Issues you will want to discuss with your Host Family

Use of telephone

  • Host families allow international students the use of their telephone and computer. Clarifying the use and rules of the telephone and computer is the responsibility of the host family.
  • Most host families do not mind their student making long distance phone calls. However, if students charge long distance calls to their host family, they are responsible for paying the bill upon its arrival.
  • The NSISP encourages students to invest in prepaid telephone calling cards. Many local stores sell the prepaid international and national telephone cards. The benefit for the student is they do not owe their host family money on phone bills because they have prepaid calls.

Use of computer

  • Some students bring their own laptops and others use family computers.
  • It is important students understand that host families have the right and responsibility to monitor and restrict all computer use.
  • Families who enforce time limits for their own children can also enforce time limits for their international students.

Student transportation

  • Students can travel to and from school by school bus. There is no charge for the school bus.
  • If students live in an area where public transportation is provided and they choose to use this method for travel to and from school, it is at the cost of the student.
  • Host families are encouraged to, whenever possible, provide transportation to the school or other local sites to facilitate their participation in extra-curricular activities.

Problems with school or home stay . . .

If students have problems with their school or host family, they should talk about it with their Homestay Coordinator. The Coordinator takes any major problems to the NSISP Director for help in finding a resolution.

Program Rules

The signed NSISP contract contains the rules of the program. The rules include, but are not limited to:

While in Canada, students are always under the jurisdiction of the national, provincial, and local laws. All laws must be obeyed. If a law is broken(shoplifting, stealing, working, etc.) it will result in student's termination from the program.
Alcohol and drugs
You agree not to consume alcohol or use illegal drugs while enrolled in the Nova Scotia International Student Program (NSISP). Use of these products will result in your termination from the program.

School rules
You agree to obey the rules of the school you attend. These rules include, but are not limited to, attendance and actively participating in classroom work. You agree to take part in extra-curricular activities.

NS School Code of Conduct
The Nova Scotia School Code of Conduct recognizes and supports a respectful and healthy learning environment in schools. This document describes the code and the process of reaching the code.

Driving / driver education
You will not drive motorized vehicles except within the context of a formal driver’s training program. Driver’s training may be taken only with the written permission of your parents, and you will allow the NSISP to hold my driver’s license until you return to your home country.

Travel within Nova Scotia— with the permission of your host family, you can travel throughout the province with them, a student group or other family.
Travel outside of Nova Scotia— you understand that you require approval from the NSISP to travel outside the province with a group or your host family. All travel of this kind must be chaperoned by a responsible adult and requires written approval, in English, from your family. You will also advise the NSISP at least two weeks prior to your departure of my plans to travel.

Fitting into my new community
You will make every effort to adjust to, and become a member of, the host family and community.

You will make every effort to speak English at all times.

Spending money
The NSISP recommends students open a local bank account. A local account allows students to have quick access to their money.

Host parents are not responsible for their student's money matters. They are not to hold the students' money in their bank account, and are not to lend money to their student. Keep bank accounts well organized and if a money problem arises, students should contact their parents in their home country.

Additional costs and fees
You understand that your program fees cover your monthly charges for room, board, medical and tuition. Some schools charge all of their students an additional fee for such items as lockers, school agendas, etc. It is your responsibility to pay these fees which should cost between $30–$50.

Academic performance
You understand as a student in the NSISP any report about participation (marks, behaviour etc.) can be sent to your parents and/or agent (if applicable).

Breaking the NSISP rules . . .

The NSISP hopes no student breaks the rules while they are participating in the program. However, if a rule is broken, the NSISP has various ways of dealing with the problem.

If you break a rule, your first step is to see the Director of the NSISP for a disciplinary meeting. At this meeting, you and the Director will discuss the issues relating to your behaviour. Following the discussion the Director makes a ruling on your punishment. You will get only a verbal reprimand or, depending on severity of what you've done, you may sign a behaviour contract. By signing the contract, you are agreeing not to break the rules of the NSISP again. If you do, the NSISP will send you home.

This procedure is the preferred way of dealing with students who break the rules. However, if the NSISP believes the misbehaviour is severe, the student gets sent directly home.

The NSISP has a three-stage process for managing behavioral discipline issues:

Stage One (Minor infraction)
Verbal warning and written report to agent in home country to be forwarded to parents in home country.

Stage Two (Major infraction or 2nd minor infraction)
Written Behaviour Contract and meeting with Program Director and school principal. Behavior Contract sample enclosed.

Stage Three (2nd major infraction or illegal activity)
Student returned to home country.

Visits from Family

The NSISP encourages students' parents to visit them in Nova Scotia. It's a wonderful way for them to see their child's new home, meet their host parents, and their Canadian friends.

Sometimes, a visit from family creates some stress on both the student and their parents. The NSISP strongly recommends families wait a few months (no sooner than six weeks after the student arrives in Nova Scotia) for their child to settle in before they visit. Some parents feel their child is overly close to their host family, and some children feel lonely after their family has left. However, visits are usually a very positive experience for everyone involved.

The NSISP recommends families do not stay with their student's host families or visit during exam time. They must make their own travel arrangements. Host families are not responsible for accommodations or meals for their student's families visiting Nova Scotia. Families should check with the NSISP before committing to any travel arrangements.

School and Academic Information

When students apply to the NSISP they are required to provide a copy of their transcripts and also to let the NSISP know if any special courses are required during their stay. Piror to arriving in Nova Scotia, students will receive a letter with the name and address of the school they will be attending.

Students are placed in a school based on their application form and also on where their host family resides. Many students will be bussed to school; however, some will live within walking distance.

All schools have extracurricular activities for international students to join. Students are strongly encouraged to join clubs, sports teams, bands, or other activities. This is an ideal way for a student to make Canadian friends and get invloved. Students participating in the NSISP are expected to attend classes, achieve academically, and respect the rules of the schools. A report and/or transcript will be provided at the end of your stay.

Student Travel While in Nova Scotia

Many international students like to travel to other places in Canada or the United States while they are living in Nova Scotia. The NSISP encourages students to travel and see as much of the country as possible. (refer back to rules…)

End of School Year

Staying On

The NSISP is an academic public school program that runs from September to June. Students are expected to leave at the end of the school year. Students must leave Nova Scotia no later than June 30. They may return to their home country or transfer to another program.

Extending Your Stay - Visas

All student Visas have an expiry date. If a student wants to extend their Visa, an NSISP representative has the necessary application package from the Canadian Immigration Department. Students may need a full physical examination for the approval of their extension. The examination may cost approximately $200 Cdn. Students should send their application for extension at least six weeks before the expiry date of the Visa.

A Successful Experience

  • Remember your host family may be nervous upon your arrival. Accept your host family as part of your experience in Nova Scotia. Show compassion, sensitivity, and try to include them in your activities.
  • Make sure passport, documents, and airplane tickets are in a safe place so they can be easily accessed at the program end.
  • Talk to your host family regularly. Include them in your school projects, activities, or hobbies.
  • Spend recreational time with your family. On occasion the NSISP will take students to places of local interest or to sightseeing attractions.
  • Make friends at school and in the neighbourhood. School and community activities are an important part of your experience in Nova Scotia.
  • Maintain communication with the home stay coordinator. Try to resolve problems through regular communication and understanding.
  • Successful students also give their families time, attention and love. These attributes make the program a memorable experience for everyone involved.