Local residents who enjoy learning about other cultures are invited to connect with Missouri University of Science and Technology’s international students through the university’s International Friends program.
The program matches community members with international students who together are encouraged to take part in local activities, such as shopping, dining at a local restaurant or experiencing holiday celebrations, and discuss each other’s cultures and customs.
Meetings are typically once a month, but times and activities are based on both participants’ availability.
“They can be involved as much as they want. It can be just getting a cup of coffee or learning about each other’s cooking,” said Richie Myers, program coordinator in the office of international affairs at Missouri S&T.
There is no charge to participate and the friends can take part in free activities and events. Participants are not asked to assist the students financially or provide housing.
If the match is not successful, the students and community members can be matched up with different individuals.
Each year, between 25 and 35 local residents are matched with international students, Myers said.
“It’s a great way to develop long-term relationships between students and community members,” Myers said. “If you enjoy our international Celebration of Nations parade and festival, this program will give you a chance to get to know individual students and learn more about their cultures. It’s also an opportunity to introduce students to American customs.”
A meet and greet for participants in this year’s International Friends program will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, in S&T’s Southwestern Bell Cultural Center, 1207 N. Elm St., in Rolla.
Scott Robinson, of Greentree Christian Church in Rolla, has took part in the program before and befriended students from Botswana, a country in Africa, for two years until they graduated as well as students from Iraq.
Robinson said the students, while with him, experienced a Thanksgiving dinner, attended a wedding and birthday parties, Fourth of July events as well as soccer and baseball games. Robinson said not many international students actually get to experience the inside of an American home.
In addition, Robinson learned about the students’ culture. “I had never been to Africa at that point and I learned about life over there,” he said.
A letter inviting community members to participate in the program quotes Liu Feng, past president of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association at S&T, who said, “As visiting Chinese students, we face many difficulties when we are studying in the U.S., not only in our studies but also in our lives. Your community is so nice to us and so many people are happy to be our ‘host families’ ... Most Chinese students improve their English after finding a friend in the community.”
Page 2 of 2 - The friendships don’t have to end after the semester or school year is over, Myers said. Some past participants have kept in touch with each other after the students graduate or move back to their country or origin.
People interested in being matched with a student are asked to fill out a questionnaire available at the international affairs office in room 106 in the Southwestern Bell Cultural Center or online at international.mst.edu/students/internationalfriends. Questionnaires are due by Friday, Oct. 25.
For more information on the program, call Myers at 573-341-4335 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.