Local Elgin family Melissa and Dave McFadden have a full house, caring for three young children, and have chosen to add another guest into their home. At the start of the fall 2021 semester, they welcomed international student Ryoga Yamada into their family, an international exchange student from Japan. This is the fifth international student the McFadden family has hosted through Elgin Community College’s International Student Homestay Program.
The program provides international students the opportunity to immerse themselves in American culture by living with their host family and sharing aspects of their own culture in return. “It’s always neat to meet and learn about their culture and background,” said the McFadden family. In addition to Yamada, the McFadden’s have hosted students from China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Rwanda. “Everyone has brought different cultural experiences to the table, different traditions, and what they like to do,” said the Melissa.
They first became aware of the Homestay program while driving past ECC’s campus digital signs, and Dave McFadden immediately recalled his own experience studying abroad. “For me, I had participated in study abroad as a student and lived with a host family. It was an awesome experience, and I felt it would be invaluable for my family to be on the other side of it,” said Dave.
When Dave lived with a host family, he appreciated how they welcomed him right into their lives and wanted to do the same with his student. “They fit into your family and are a part of your family. This is the approach we take, bringing them into our everyday lives, and our own kids have loved the experience, too,” said Dave. The McFadden family introduces typical American family experiences into their host students' lives, such as bringing them to their children’s sporting events, grocery shopping, local events in the area, celebrating holidays, and taking them on vacation. Certain challenges that arise, such as the language barrier, are an expected challenge that the McFadden’s say only brings them closer with connecting to their guest and learning more about where they come from.
The university Yamada attends in Japan is one of 27 international universities that partner with ECC’s Homestay program. “I entered ECC’s Homestay program because I wanted to experience American life,” said Yamada. “Although we are limited in what we can do together because of COVID-19, I’ve had a great time with my host family. They take me to their children’s baseball games and have introduced me to many kinds of American food like Chicago style pizza and hot dogs. Although my English is not the best, they work hard to explain everything until I understand. I appreciate my host family and ECC, which have provided me with such a great opportunity.”
“It’s always worth trying something new, and you never know until you give it a shot. You might find you really enjoy it, having another person around, because learning different cultures and things can be very interesting, and it doesn’t ever feel like extra work,” said the McFadden family.
ECC’s Homestay program accepts Host families on a rolling basis. To learn more about how to become a host family, visit https://elgin.edu/academics/international-education/homestay-program/homestay-host-families/.