Becoming an SSU Homestay Family is a Special Experience

homestayfamilya.jpgSince 1979, the Sonoma State American Language Institute (SSALI) has provided international students with a chance to learn the English language as well as to absorb American culture.

However, it has become increasingly difficult to offer this experience, as there are fewer and fewer places to house students involved in the SSALI program.

For years the SSALI program has relied upon a core group of homestays, local families who have voluntarily opened their doors and allowed a student, or several, to stay with them during a SSALI semester.

Unfortunately the pool of acceptable homes has shrunk tremendously, leaving many students' housing situation uncertain. However, when a student and a homestay family come together, results can often be wondrous.

Lupita Barragan recently opened her home for a SSALI student. She and her family are new to the SSALI program but have experienced great results while involved. The student she was placed with is 19 year old Rowena Wu from China.

"She has actually brought us together as a family and has reminded us it's important to have time and conversations together at least once a day," Barragan said Her family is now having more family dinners consistently throughout the week.

homestaylupita.jpgBarragan added "We are glad to have her and a SSALI program that includes my family and gives us an opportunity to share our home with someone who could've been alone. I'm happy to have her home. It's a nice match."

In order to become a homestay, a family must meet certain criteria such as distance to campus, access to public transportation, and ability to provide for the student during their stay. Once deemed an appropriate place to house a student a homestay then may designate preferences they would prefer in a student. The challenge resides in the attempt to match an established home with a particular student while a student hopes for a place to call home.

With limited housing options and nonexistent alternatives SSALI administrators have been forced to explore other options. Currently, they are exploring the brokering of reserved on-campus housing units strictly for SSALI students as well as surveying other lodging possibilities in the community.

As a component of the Extended Education Department the SSALI program has been in operation since 1979. Generally the program attracts 40 to 50 students per semester who are gathered via third party placement agencies. Students in the program come from across the globe, stretching from South America, Asia and the Middle East.

While enrolled, students receive rigorous instruction in English composition, reading, and grammar, as well as classes revolving around American culture and conversation.

Students also have the option to contribute to the Scoop Newsletter, a publication produced by SSALI students used to facilitate the improvement of written communication skills. Students may also enroll in courses designed for TOEFL preparation, an English proficiency test used for college admissions.

For more information on the SSALI program please contact Debra Crow at 707-664-2742 or at

-Doug Arias

ABOVE; Lupita Barragan and Armando Franco have hosted SSALI student Rowena Wu in their home and find it very rewarding. The family has included trips to see the sights of San Francisco.

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