Written by By JENISE FOUTS Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 09 July 2010 10:03
Bowling Green families willing to be compensated for opening their homes to international students for several months are being sought by The Language Company, which has an office at Bowling Green State University.
The Language Company (TLC) operates the Bowling Green Language Institute on campus, offering intensive English studies for international students seeking to improve their own English before enrolling as students at BGSU.
Andrea Voogd, director of TLC's office at BGSU, said the company has just a handful of local host families. "With the shortage (of housing) on campus we'll need a lot more," she said. "It is a great service to students to have as many families as possible."
Paul Hofmann, director of BGSU's Center for International Programs, which has formed a partnership with TLC, said a homestay situation allows a student "to live in an environment immersed in English."
Requirements for host families include the student's having her or his own bedroom; Internet service available in the house for the student to do homework and maintain contact with relatives; two meals a day, hopefully a hot dinner with the family in the evening so they are conversing in English; and transportation to and from TLC classes if needed. Host families who live close enough to campus where the student can walk or take BGSU's shuttle bus do not need to drive them.
In return, host families are compensated at the rate of $600 per month.
"We take all the risk," said Voogd. "We pay the family. The family never has to ask the student for money, ever."
"Host families" can consist of a single adult, a couple, widow or widower and parents with children.
"We use the word 'family' in the broadest sense," said Hofmann. There is no restriction on the age of the host, but the person must be in good health. All host families must pass a background check and sign a contract.
If a host has two spare bedrooms, there is the possibility two international students can be housed.
Hofmann said with the number of incoming students, and the number of students currently in residence halls, "we're looking at 50 families to not only share their homes but share their lives." He noted the host family should be genuinely interested in learning about other cultures and want to share American culture with the students.
As to the international students, they are generally 18-22 years old, and the majority come from South Korea and China.
For them to obtain a visa is a very stringent process, said Voogd, and they must have ties to their home country. The students fill in a profile, as do the families, and they are exchanged. Voogd said there has to be a mutual level of comfort between the student and the host family.
"We truly believe this enhances the language learning, so we're willing to do it for the students," stated Voogd. "I end every acceptance letter with 'Thank you for the trust you and your family have put in our program.'"
She estimated students live with a host family for anywhere from three to six months. Once students reach a level of English proficiency they become independent, being able to rent an apartment and drive a car.
Hofmann said the partnership between TLC and the Center for International Programs "started as an enrollment initiative. We're picking up probably 30 students a semester from TLC. They're actually at TLC acquiring language proficiency to study at BGSU."
He added, "Hosting an international student can be very rewarding for a family."
"It really is," agreed Voogd. "Your children learn something from the student, and they give to the student as well."
TLC has language institutes in 11 colleges and universities in eight states. BGSU is TLC's only site in Ohio.
For more information, contact Voogd at (419) 372-9114 or by e-mail, at