Ever thought about hosting a foreign exchange student but feared the commitment would be too great?

Have no fear is the message from Leslie Bowser, area coordinator for Foreign Links Around the Globe (FLAG).

"People think of hosting a foreign exchange student as a big commitment but actually it is very little," Bowser said.

"All the family has to provide is room and board: a real bed, three meals a day and a quiet place to study."

Contrary to popular belief, the student does not have to have his/her own room.

FLAG, a non-profit organization that promotes global diplomacy through international foreign exchange, is looking for American host families in Northeast Ohio.

"We just ask that host families share their hearts and homes with our students for a semester or a school year," Bowser said.

Two FLAG students have already been placed with Hudson families but a third host family is needed for a 16-year-old boy from Germany.

Applications for interested host parents and families are currently being accepted by Bowser at LBowser@flag-intl.org.

Information about FLAG can be found on their website, www.flag-intl.org.

According to Bowser, hosting an exchange student is the sharing of cultures between an international youngster and your family: customs, friendship, personalities, even the food and the holiday traditions - it's a growth and learning experience for all involved. The choice to open one's home to an exchange student is a life changing experience not only for host parents, but siblings as well. In addition, hosting an exchange student enriches the life of the whole community by introducing the foreign student's culture and tradition to local friends and neighbors as they interact with the community throughout the school year.

"A true benefit of the program is that hosting a student makes a long term bond, lifelong friends," Bowser said.

"You'll get so much more out of it than you give. The rewards are great."

Bowser is well qualified to be FLAG's coordinator. Prior to moving to Hudson in 2007 she served for 10 years with the state department's foreign service.

As coordinator, she also serves as an advocate for both the student and the host family.

"They'll have someone to turn to," she said.

For the past 25 years, FLAG has been an industry leader in international student exchange, representing students in more than 51 countries from around the world. For the past 25 years, it has been FLAG's vision to promote global understanding and world peace by providing families and youngsters from across the globe with the best intercultural experiences friendship can buy. Since 1989, more than 2900 FLAG host families have welcomed international students into their homes, and more than 60 percent of those students have later visited or been visited by their host family. All types of individuals and families are encouraged to host, there is no "typical" host family - they come in all shapes and sizes. Each family is unique and provides students with a genuine immersion experience, Bowser reports.

Email: dmarkulis@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9436