International host families needed at U of O

Release Date: 8/24/2000

CLARKSVILLE, Ark. ---How would you like to help a student from Belize get over homesickness? Or help a student from Ireland understand American culture? Or learn more about Spain from someone who has lived his or her entire life there? Or make a lifelong friend from Honduras, Korea or Scotland?

Those are some of the opportunities awaiting people who participate in the University of the Ozarks' International Host Family Program. U of O's Office of International Studies is currently seeking volunteer families from the area to serve as host families for its international students.

The nonresidential program --- the students do not live with the host families --- emphasizes the understanding and sharing of cultures between the students and local families. Host families offer support and encouragement to the international students, many of whom are away from home for the first time.
   
"Host families can really make a difference in an international student's success here," said Rickey Casey, director of international studies at Ozarks. "This is their new home-away-from-home and this program is a way to help them feel more comfortable here."
   
Casey said Ozarks has 96 students from 18 countries in its international program this year. There are approximately 60 families in the River Valley involved in the host program.
   
"We really need to find another 30 or 35 families to get involved," Casey said. "There's really not much commitment as far as money or time involved. We ask that the host families do things like invite their students over for dinner occasionally, take them shopping or just help them find their way around the area. The main thing is that we want the host families to let their students know they are available for help or support whenever they need it."
   
Casey said he knows of host families who are still in contact with their former students years after they leave Ozarks and return to their homelands.
   
"We've had host families take vacations and visit their former students in their countries and send them postcards and Christmas cards," Casey said. "It really is a program that can help form lifetime bonds." The first host family event of the year at Ozarks will be a celebration of Central America Independence Day at 7 p.m., Sept. 15. U of O's international students will give the community a flavor of their cultures through food, dance and other presentations. The event, which is free and open to the public, will also serve as an informational program about Ozarks' International Host Family Program. U of O officials will be available to answer questions about the program.
    
For more information about the host program, contact the Office of International Studies at (501) 979-1232.