In most cases when international students are coming to Canada to study, they need a place to live. A homestay offers a unique environment for a student to get to experience Canadian life while providing a place for a student to say while they study.

A homestay is generally a room in the home of a Canadian family that an international student will stay in while they attend school. Sometimes the student and the family will work out the cost and the details of the homestay between themselves, but most of the time, it is the school that will make arrangements with the family to have its students stay with them.

Homestays are especially popular with students coming to Canada to study English or French as a second language, where the course of study may only be a few weeks or months long. In this kind of situation, living in a residence dorm or trying to find an apartment to stay in would not be practical because of the short amount of time the student will be in Canada. The student who stays in a homestay has the advantage of being surrounded by Canadian culture and English or French while they are away from the school environment.

International students coming to study at a post-secondary schools do sometimes stay in homestays, but this is more rare. More often, they live in university residences or in apartments or houses off-campus.