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 Learning about Western holidays or the world on your doorstep

Posted on September 28, 2022 by Ryan Dahlman
Yokohama students at St. Michael's in Bow Island.

By Samantha Johnson

Each year, St. Michael’s School in Bow Island invites Japanese students to come and stay in the community. They are seeking families to offer the students a place to stay while they are in Canada. 

Wendy Urquhart, French & International Education Consultant, said, “Holy Spirit Catholic School Division has a partnership with a school in Japan called Hayato, which is in Yokohama. We’ve developed a strong partnership with this school, and we’ve welcomed their students for five out of six of the past years.” 

In 2017, members of Holy Spirit Catholic School Division had the opportunity to travel with the Municipal District of Taber and the City of Lethbridge to Japan. While at the Alberta office in the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, they met with representatives from Hayato School and that is where the partnership developed. “Other than 2020, Hayato School has sent at least one student per year to learn about our language and culture,” stated Urquhart. 

Japanese students are scheduled to arrive at the beginning of October and normally stay until after Christmas, giving them an opportunity to learn how Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving, Halloween, Remembrance Day, and Christmas. The students attend St. Michael’s School in the Grades 10-12 classes. While Hayato School is not catholic, the students follow along with the entire program while in Bow Island. 

St. Michael’s is seeking homestay families in the community who could provide a welcoming, caring family and a cultural experience for the Japanese students. Students need to have a private bedroom but can share a bathroom. A representative from St. Michael’s will meet with the family and visit the home. Prior to the Japanese students arriving, the family must complete a police check, including the vulnerable sector, and a child intervention check. To offset the cost of hosting, families will receive $800 per month. 

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for families to share how they live day to day and to see the Canadian culture through someone else’s eyes,” said Urquhart. Additionally, children of the homestay family experience a cultural exchange in the comfort of their own home, “which is nice because in this day and age many families are hesitant to send their children abroad. It brings the world to their doorstep.” 

If you are interested in this enriching opportunity, please call Wendy Urquhart immediately at 403-330-7382 or send an email to 

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