By Michael Sudlow
Many students who are planning to study in the U.S. are naturally attracted to such exciting cities as San Francisco, Boston, New York, or Los Angeles. However, in these big cities, students tend to hang out with friends from their own countries, eat food from their own countries at ethnic restaurants, watch movies in their language, and essentially continue to live as they did at home, only this time they have to pay a lot of money for the experience.
There is a way to maximize your English studies while learning about and enjoying American culture and customs.
At a quality English program in a small or mid-size town you can study English and make friends with students from all over the world, while also immersing yourself in American culture. Moreover, small schools often have a familial atmosphere. Class sizes are often smaller at such schools so contact time with the teachers is much greater. Teachers and staff usually know all the students by name and can provide personalized help and attention that big schools in big cities may not be able to do as easily.
Some students who want to fully immerse themselves in American culture and the English language choose to live with American families through a homestay program. Most host families want to know more about you and your home country and, at the same time, want to share their life with you. By living with an American family you will learn about American holidays, customs, manners, and culture by experiencing them firsthand in a home.
“I love my homestay family. The father is very funny and the mother is a good cook. And I like our dog. We watch TV together, go shopping together, and eat dinner every night together,” says Chinatsu, an international student from Japan studying at the English Language & Culture Institute.
Personally, my family has been hosting international students for some time. We have hosted students from Japan, Korea, Brazil, Chile, Switzerland, Russia, Taiwan, and many other countries at our home. My children learned to love their new brothers and sisters from these countries. A homestay is a great experience not only for you, but for the host family as well.
In addition to the activities you will participate in while living with an American family, many small ESL schools provide students with all sorts of activities. Some schools even offer trips during vacation breaks to such fun places as Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, Seattle, and more. And at the end of your studies, you can easily travel to those big cities you really want to see before you return home.
“Each month our school takes students on day trips. This month we went to a famous mountain in Oregon for hiking. The weather was beautiful and the hike was fantastic. I took a picture which will always help me remember this day,” shares a student from Yemen about his experiences.
Now, before you choose an ESL school, there are some things you may want to consider.
- The Price: Will the program match my budget?
- The Location: Is it in a safe area?
- The Weather: Will I be comfortable living in a place with that kind of weather?
- School Size: Is it too big or too small for my needs and interests?
- Class Hours per week: Am I getting a lot of instruction for my money?
- Activities: Will I have the chance to participate in activities outside the class?
The English Language & Culture Institutes
Located in beautiful Oregon, the English Language & Culture Institutes (ELCI) in Monmouth and Albany, Oregon have a long history of providing excellent English-study programs for students from around the world.
The English Language & Culture Institutes are small, family-like schools. Enrollment ranges between 35 and 60 students a term with larger numbers in the summer. In other words, it’s not too small and not too big. ]
Students take classes in grammar, writing, reading, and speaking/listening for about 21 hours each week. A free IELTS Preparation class is offered twice a week as well as free personal tutoring twice a week, before and after school.
The state of Oregon is famous for its beautiful scenery, delicious seafood and berries, and mild weather all year. Oregon is also a very safe state. And studying in a small town like Monmouth (population 9,000) or Albany (population 51,000) makes it even more of a special experience as you will be able to participate in many local activities not available in bigger cities.
“I love this school! This school changed my life. I have made many wonderful friends here and I love my homestay family. I learn a lot of from them. I’m really happy here,” says Yeld from Brazil, a student at the English Language & Culture Institute.