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April 18, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Program links BG families with international students

Students who move to Bowling Green, leaving home for the first time, often have a brush with homesickness. It can be cured with a phone call to a family member and the reassurance that they will be home soon either for a break or holiday.

But most international students don’t have the comfort of returning home every month to see their families.

They do have the option of joining the International Friendship Program which pairs international students with host families in the area.

Students don’t live with the families, but they do spend time together acting as a support system.

“The purpose is not to provide free housing and is not intended to be a source of financial support, it is structurally a social program,” Anne Saviers, Associate Director of the Center for International Programs said.

She said that host families spend time with their students by taking them along on a shopping trip, having them over for dinner, spending holidays together or attending on-campus events with them.

Phyllis Oster has been a part of the program for 10 years and said the experience has been positive for her family. She said that each student’s needs have been different and how they spend their time has been based on their needs.

Oster said that she became so close with a Chinese couple she hosted, that she got to see the birth of their child.

Oster decided to join the program after she retired because she has an interest in meeting people from other countries. She said that they program has helped her to learn about the students’ native cultures.

“You meet very motivated students because international students are coming here to learn,” she said. “They are very interesting and you learn about other countries.”

While families in the community are exposed to other cultures though the program, international students get to see a real American family, dispelling false stereotypes they may have been exposed to.

“I think it helps students to see what American families really are, not what they are portrayed like on television,” said Saviers. “We want international students to see what American families are like, what real people are like.”

Saviers said that anyone — typical nuclear families, widows or single parent families — can be a host family.

“We use a very liberal definition of family,” she said.

Families from all different economic levels participate because it doesn’t take a financial commitment to be a host family.

The Center for International Programs is currently accepting applications to match families and students in fall, when typically all of the matching takes place.

After families are matched with students, they may find that some students are more involved with their families than others.

“Some students are so focused on academics that they do almost nothing outside of the University,” said Saviers.

Many of the students form long-lasting friendships with their families and stay in contact after graduating and moving away from Bowling Green.

Oster said that she stays in contact with a Japanese student though e-mail. A couple from Mexico that she hosted now lives in Cincinnati and visits her on occasion.

These lasting bonds are a part of a program that Saviers describes as “friendly people meeting friendly people.”

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