Families host international students

Wanted: Good-hearted local residents willing to share friendly conversation and a home-cooked meal (or even a store-bought pizza) with international students who want a fuller picture of American life.

This fall about 80 international students have signed up for WSU’s Friends and Family program. But, Ben Colston, international student adviser, said he only has about 20 local families to match them with.

“We want them to be able to experience more than just the academic side of going to a university” in this country, Colston said. “We see it as a chance for them to step into an American home, meet a family and learn about American culture.”

According to the Office of International Students and Scholars, there are more than 1,100 international students on the Pullman campus and they come from more than 90 countries.
That’s a wealth of culture right here in Pullman, said Colleen Harvey, who has been hosting students with her husband, Bob, for 30 years.

“Maybe we don’t travel around the world, but we get to know the world through these students,” Colleen said. This year she and her husband are hosting six students, but invariably many more will find their way to the Harvey house for potlucks and game nights.

Bob laughed when asked how many students they’ve hosted over the years. “No, I don’t have a list,” he said, “but that would be amazing.”

The Harveys arrived in Pullman in 1977 when Bob became the Baptist campus minister. That first week, Colleen said, she called WSU and asked how she could get involved with international students.

For many years Colleen helped coordinate the program, and she headed it for about six years. At that time, she said, community volunteers were matching about 150 students each year with about 90 Pullman families.

Since then, she said, responsibility for the program has shifted hands several times, but in recent years the Office of International Students and Scholars has been working to build it up again.

“I think a number of students come to WSU and never make it into an American home,” Bob said. In fact, this summer the Harvey’s got a call from a staff member at the Intensive American Language Center saying that three students were heading home soon and they really wanted to see an American home before they left.

So of course the Harvey’s invited them over for dinner. “We had a great time,” Bob said. Several weeks later they received thank you cards from the girls back home in Shanghai.

Little things mean a lot.
For more information call Ben Colston at 335-4508

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