Call for more homestay hosts to welcome international students through GETI program

New family: Stuart and Natalie Heiniger with their 13th homestay student, Loris Vaccaro from Switzerland. Picture: Lucy Stone
New family: Stuart and Natalie Heiniger with their 13th homestay student, Loris Vaccaro from Switzerland. Picture: Lucy Stone

Tasmania is rapidly becoming a location of choice for international high school students, with an average 25 per cent growth of visiting student numbers each year for past three years.

In 2014, 199 international students visited the state for study trips of between three months to a whole year.

In 2017, that number was almost 400.

Students from Europe, Brazil, America, Canada, China, Japan and beyond are spending time in Launceston schools, and living with Tasmanian families while here.

Government Education and Training International runs the program which seeks to attract students to Tasmanian schools, and matches them up with host families in the region.

Riverside residents Stuart and Natalie Heiniger have welcomed 13 international students over the past 10 years.

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While the Heinigers’ own children are grown up and moved on, they still open the doors to international students each year.

“We’ve had North American, we’ve had Norway, two from Brazil, one from Germany, two from Switzerland … and French,” Mr Heiniger said.

This year they are playing host to 18-year-old Loris Vaccaro, from Switzerland, who is attending Launceston College for a full year.

Mrs Heiniger said they always enjoyed welcoming new arrivals into their house and had been busy introducing Loris to Vegemite, an Australian Christmas, and, of course, the language.

She said many students who had learnt English as a second language did so with an American accent, meaning the adjustment to the Australian accent was a challenge.

“There’s different levels of English – for instance, Loris was very good,” Mr Heiniger said.

Despite the quality of his English, a challenge for Loris was learning the “complicated” daily greetings of the average Australian – “g’daymatehowareya” and “seeya”.

With the increasing numbers of international students choosing Tasmania, Government Education and Training International is putting out the call for more homestay hosts to sign up.

Mrs Heiniger said the family still received letters and gifts from former homestay students, keeping alive the connections made through each visit.