Petrolia family stretches across the globe thanks to hosting international students

If it’s your birthday and you’re visiting the Burns residence in Petrolia, Ontario, you’d better cover your ears.

Jim Burns and his family (pictured above with Kivan from Turkey, Juan from Spain, and Juan’s friend Colleen in the back row) have been hosting international high school students for the Lambton Kent District School Board (LKDSB) for six years. They’ve welcomed students from countries like Italy, France, Turkey, Taiwan, Belgium, Switzerland, and Spain.

“We got started when my daughter was eight years old. We knew she’d benefit from having other people – and their different perspectives – around the house. Turns out we all benefited,” Jim says.

“We Zoom their parents, siblings, even extended family. We’ve become the ‘Canadian members’ of families all over the world.”
–Jim Burns

A big part of the Burns family’s success as hosts comes from not only building relationships with their students, but their students’ families as well.

“We Zoom their parents, siblings, even extended family. We’ve become the ‘Canadian members’ of families all over the world.”

Those conversations are a source of cultural exchange, some of which has made it into Burns family traditions. For example, Spanish omelets – that blend crispy, fried potatoes and eggs – are now a go-to comfort food for them, while other things were a little more difficult to adopt.

“In Spain, they have the tradition on New Year’s Eve where they eat twelve grapes. On birthdays, they pull on your ear, once for every year. The birthday ear-pulls were a special request from one of our student’s uncles,” says Jim.

Even after the students finish their studies and head back to their home countries, the relationship continues. “We hear from students on most special occasions, Fathers’ and Mothers’ Day and Christmas.” The culture exchange – like sore ears on your birthday – continues, too, with students and their families regularly extending invites for the Burns’ to enjoy the hospitality of their hometowns all over the world.

“Problem is,” says Jim, “there are so many places to visit, and they have so many things they want to show us. I’d need to take a year off work to do it all!”

The LKDSB welcomes students from all over the world. Caring homestay hosts – like the Burns family – are needed for academic-year placements across the district, particularly in Sarnia and Chatham.

Hosts receive a generous allowance to offset expenses, 24/7 support, special health and safety training, and the opportunity to bring the world to their front door.

For more information about hosting international students, contact Canada Homestay Network at or 1-877-441-4443. To learn more and apply, visit