|HAMMOND ROTARY JOINS SOUTHEASTERN “FRIENDSHIP HOSTS”
HAMMOND -- Last year, 17 local families teamed up with Southeastern Louisiana University international students through a new culture-bridging program called Friendship Hosts.
The families extended welcoming hands to the students, helping them settle into campus and community life. They picked them up at the airport, took them shopping and sightseeing, invited them to share in birthday parties and other family events.
The students, no longer strangers in a strange land, cooked native meals for their new friends and invited them to participate in campus activities.
Friendship Hosts, said Tamara Danel, the Southeastern graduate who is coordinating the program as a volunteer, “has been a wonderful, positive experience” for both the families and the students involved.
This year, Danel wants to expand the program and she is getting active help to do that from the Hammond Rotary Club.
The club, she said, has adopted the program as one of its avenues of community service. “Some members have already volunteered,” Danel said. Hammond Rotary also plans to host a welcome reception for international students on Aug. 22, the date Southeastern stages the the students’ university orientation program. The reception is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the War Memorial Student Union.
“It will be a great opportunity for the international students to come in contact with members of the community,” she said.
St. Albert’s Catholic Student Center will also continue its tradition of hosting “International Student Night,” scheduled this year for Sept. 12, Danel said. “The students get a free meal, fellowship with church members, and, through an ‘open mike’ activity, get to tell about their experiences with their hosts families and to thank them. Last year, some sang songs such as their national anthems. They are tremendously appreciative and it was a touching experience.”
Danel, whose family over the past eight years has welcomed into their home students from France, Germany, Turkey and China, said hosting international students is a win-win situation.
“Your reward is a better understanding of another culture; that warm fuzzy feeling when you know you’ve helped someone in need; and at least one new friend from another country,” she said. “The students’ reward is a better appreciation for our customs and society, a happier, more positive university experience, and a new friend from the United States.”
Friendship Hosts is administered by Southeastern’s Office of Multicultural and International Student Affairs. Director Eric Summers said his office hopes to recruit approximately 25 families to extend a hand to international students arriving for the fall 2002 semester, which begins August 26.
Danel said that while housing is not needed for the international students, the Friendship Hosts program needs “people who will agree to pick up one or two students at the airport and get them back to their residence halls or apartments on campus.”
“Take them to local discount or grocery stores to get food or personal items they didn’t bring from home,” she said. “Keep in touch with them throughout the semester via phone or e-mail and invite them to join you for holiday meals or celebrations or to go sightseeing or have fun at a festival or Mardi Gras.”
“Southeastern becomes an empty, lonely place for these students when their American classmates go home for the holidays,” Danel said. “Everything closes on campus, including eating establishments and computer labs, where students use the Internet to communicate with their families. This is the time when international students appreciate our warm hospitality the most.”
Those who would like to be Friendship Host families can contact Danel, at (985) 542-4443 or firstname.lastname@example.org or the Office of Multicultural and International Student Affairs at 985-549-3850, email@example.com.