Home Away From Home

EF Host Family Coordinators L. to R. Maria Phillips and Nadia GomezWhat do two vital women with two years of experience in their new positions have in common? In the case of Maria Phillips and Nadia Gomez there are multiple answers to the question. First, they both truly “love” [we know that’s an overused word] yes, love, their work. To both, what they do is fulfilling in a multidimensional way. They are the recipients of sincere gratification and so are those they serve.

 

At right, EF Host Family Coordinators L. to R. Maria Phillips and Nadia Gomez

Prior to joining forces in August of 2012 they were teachers – with Maria Phillips in Peekskill, NY and Nadia Gomez in Madrid, Spain. For the past two years they have continued to work with students, however, in the capacity of Host Family Coordinators at the EF International Language Center in Tarrytown. The vital nature of EF is reflected through the number and diversity of international students that arrive at the Tarrytown campus from, literally, around the globe. One only has to walk along Village streets to hear native languages being spoken by small and larger groups of young people who have ventured far from home to learn English, hone business skills, and visit  that grand apple, New York City.

Many of these students also seek an American experience apart from language, studies and sightseeing. They want to assimilate the culture of this country and be a part of its fabric. That “Made in the USA” fabric is woven in large part by families, hence, their desire to be a part of an American family, whether for a couple of weeks or months.

“Our goal at EF (Education First) is to increase the quality of experience that both host families and students can benefit from,” Phillips said during an interview at the EF campus. “The summer is an ideal time for potential host families to become involved and share an American experience with students,” she added. The shortness of stay, which is anywhere from two to five weeks during the summer (for most students), makes hosting optimal, and should a family decide to continue in the fall they can host a student for up to nine months.

The process for potential host families is quite simple. After contacting EF, either Maria Phillips or Nadia Gomez will schedule a home visit to preview where the student would live. A private bedroom and closet or wardrobe is necessary. In addition, providing students with breakfast and dinner on weekdays and all three meals on weekends is discussed. It’s important to note that host families do not have to create special menus for students, who will eat what is prepared and served. Families can have up to 4 students and receive a tax-free stipend for each. “What hosting is truly about is the life experience for both the family and the student,” Phillips said. That experience is one of mutual respect, and compatibility is paramount in aligning host families with students.

Nadia Gomez clarified the Host Family program by adding, “I feel privileged to work with students from all over the world. I get to meet each and every one of the students we place with families. They continually stay in touch and I am available to them and the host families throughout their stay at EF.” Maria Phillips said, “Nadia and I balance each other out with the skills we bring to this work. We act as coordinators, facilitators, mentors and support for our students and the families who host them.”

Both women realize that all matches are not “made in heaven.” That is simply a fact of life, and if a host family or student does not feel “in sync” then accommodations are made quickly and efficiently to remedy the situation, which can include hosting another student or living with another family.

As the EF campus in Tarrytown expands more students arrive with the hopes of sharing their lives with the lives of others both on and off campus. For potential host families the opportunities abound, starting this summer and into the fall.

For further information Maria Phillips can be reached at 914-597-7125 and Nadia Gomez at 914-597-7104 or email maria.phillips@ef.com or nadia.gomez@ef.com  or visit http://www.ef.edu/homestay/

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento