By Kierra Bussey, student writer, International Affairs
Perhaps one of the best paths to explore American culture is through the door of an American home. While being immersed in the culture on a daily basis via classes is sufficient, one can’t deny the experience gained through the daily interaction with an American family. Like most study abroad programs, Temple University’s Intensive English Language Program gives students this unique housing opportunity. The homestay program was founded in 1997 by Academic Advisor/Coordinator of IELP, Dennis Serge and former Director, Dolores Arevelo.
“The homestay provides our students with an opportunity to meet and interact with Americans in an American home so that they might know more about our culture.” Serge said. “It also aids in helping international students improve their English, which is one of the main goals of our program.”
Currently, there are fifteen families enrolled in the homestay program and about fifteen host students. The host families live throughout Philadelphia and the Philadelphia suburbs. Both interested host families and students can apply through IELP. Host families host both IELP and matriculated international students. The duration of the homestay program lasts a minimum of seven weeks, but the student has the option of staying with the host family beyond the minimum of seven weeks so long as they have the host family’s consent. There is really no limit on how long a student can stay with a host family, but the student must be an international student to qualify.
The homestay program proves to be both enriching for the family as well as the student. Peter and Sheila Hussie, from the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, are currently hosting two international students: Talal Alenzi from Kuwait and Yu Sun from China. The Hussies have been a part of the program for about ten years.
“Our interest sparked when a relative who worked at Arcadia University asked if we would host a young male student from Japan, as they were overcrowded in the dorm,” the host mother, Sheila Hussie said. “At first we were reluctant to have a stranger in our home, but it was a great experience with this young Japanese student, and till this day we still keep in touch with him.”
Sheila mentions that hosting international students has been rewarding for her family.
“Our four children have met and interacted with students from all over the world.”
Popular outings that engage the host students include, but are not limited to visiting restaurants and the movie theater and visiting extended family. On a daily basis, students enjoy one-on-one time during dinner time when they can apply their acquired English skills in a comfortable, encouraging environment.
Without a doubt, much can be learned from the fusion of different cultures. Students from South Korea, Germany, Russia, Colombia, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the Ivory Coast have graced the homestay program and have thoroughly enjoyed it.
“It personalizes their education here,” Serge said. “Many of the international students have told us that it is very difficult to establish relationships with their American peers. Homestay is one good way to initiate a relationship and a friendship that often last for a long time and continue after the students have returned to their home countries.”
Yu Sun, a freshman accounting major, has been with the Hussies for about eight months and comments on his experience thus far in the homestay program.
“I chose a homestay family because it is a good way for me to learn and improve my English,” Sun said. “I enjoy living with my homestay family because I feel as if I am a member of the family. It is very important for me not feel alone [in America]. And living with local family has allowed me to learn a lot about America culture, society, and religion.”
The possibility to expand the program is on Serge’s radar, but he points out that there is a need for increased host family interest to accommodate all of the students who are interested in the homestay program.
Nonetheless, students should be aware that the homestay program is an appealing option and should be considered when evaluating the best way to be oriented into America culture. All it takes is an open mind, and what can be gained from this experience can be life-changing.