The Friendship Family Program is returning to its work for students at Minnesota State after being stopped for a short period due to difficulties during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The main goal of the Friendship Family program is to provide an opportunity for international students to make friends with an American family off campus, as well as to explore the local culture and share the cultural characteristics of their country.
“We heard statistics that many international students never have the opportunity to even be in an American home and I just think that this is very sad knowing that a lot of people are coming here with the hope of not just getting an education but also learning about another culture,” said the Retention Specialist at the KIC office Kristin Odland. “I hope to help bridge that gap because most students don’t know how to find an American family to be a friend and vice versa, families usually don’t know how to connect with students.”
At the same time, the Friendship Family program requires at least two personal meetings between the student and the assigned family. This was one of the reasons for the program to suspend its work for a short period.
“When the pandemic was at its peak, it was challenging to match up students and families just because some families were very concerned because people are on different levels in terms of their comfortability with meeting students in person. The office was short-staffed so there just was not capacity to run the program,” said Odland.
The Friendship Family program is aimed at helping students to adapt more easily to a new environment, as well as to create a sense of family with people who stay in the community of the town.
“I think it helped international students feel a sense of connection with the community outside of just sort of being around people who are all the same age. I know even for me, when I was a student, it was a weird reality when you never see children and older people,” said Odland. “I think it gives a sense of stability and some security if you feel like you know someone off campus that is established in the community that you can reach out to.”
Students who have registered for the program will have an event that will be dedicated to getting to know the families participating in the program. The event takes place on Jan. 19 in the Bullpen where students can meet the families who have signed up for the program.
“If they can meet someone just naturally through conversation, I can pair them up that way,” said Odland.
According to Odland, families continue to enroll in the Friendship Family program, and therefore places in the program for students are still available. Applications are available on the Kearney International Center section on the MSU website.
“Right now we have about 35 families who signed up and also about 35 students so we probably will have room for more students to sign up,” said Odland.
For more details about the Friendship Family Program, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Header Photo: Retention Specialist Kristin Odland said the goal of the program is to connect international students with families. (Asutosh Silwal/The Reporter)
Write to Amalia Sharaf at email@example.com