The annual international weekend homestay program was on again last weekend, 1 to 3 June, and local families gave a rousing welcome to our twenty lucky participants who study on the Bundoora campus. This year, the students hailed from China, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, France and United Arab Emirates.
They represented a wide diversity of students, ranging from late teens to early 40’s, studying at the Bachelor, Master’s and Doctorate levels, and working on degrees ranging from Genetics, Nursing, Finance, Microbiology, Accounting and Public Health.
Most of these students never get a chance to see rural and regional Australia, being confined to the suburbs of Melbourne and catching hectic public transport to and from their homes to La Trobe’s Melbourne campus.
A change of pace to the slower and more friendly Bendigo region is an experience these students feel incredibly grateful for and the students were delighted to meet their kind-hearted host families on Friday night for their two special nights in a warm and welcoming local home.
Following a hearty international feast at La Trobe’s Ironbark Centre on Friday night, in which welcome and thank you gifts were presented to all participants, host families were free to include their students in any typical family experience for all day Saturday and Sunday morning. Some students ended up strolling around the historic port of Echuca and helping out on farms on the Saturday.
The day culminated for at least half the group with a Bonfire/BBQ in the backyard of one of the families living in a small rural town near Bendigo. Others enjoyed an evening at the Capital Theatre and the remainder relaxed at home for a quiet family dinner over which stimulating conversations about cultural differences between home countries and Australia were enjoyed.
Sunday morning was filled with sightseeing trips around Bendigo city itself and for many, a climb up the look-out tower in Rosalind Park for a full appreciation of the size of the city. The students were struck by the modernity of a regional Aussie city and at the same time, the vast expanse of farm lands and forests between the state’s capital and Bendigo.
Seven students were lucky enough to stay with families as far away as Elmore and Rochester so they were able to compare the atmosphere of metropolitan, regional and rural environments in the last few days.
This weekend break program offers a fabulous opportunity for local families to learn about cultures from all over the globe and as one of our regular host mothers exclaimed at the welcome ceremony, ‘We have never had the chance to travel abroad but thanks to this program, the world comes to us every year.’
Indeed, many of our host parents keep in touch with their delightful international students and have even invited them back for later visits and in one case, the host parents were invited to the Melbourne wedding of one of their former Chinese visitors.
If anyone would like to volunteer to be a host family for a short weekend (Friday night to early Sunday afternoon) in 2013, please put your name down on the list starting up already. We’d like to find enough families to double the opportunity next year and try to bring up 40 students as we have no shortage of international students on our waiting lists!
Please email Grace at La Trobe’s International Office on: firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and an application form. You can also call her on 5444-7286.