SRU’s Office of Global Engagement created the Friendship Family program to help international students adjust to moving to a different country.
The Friendship Family Program connects local families with international students. The purpose of the program is to make the international students feel more comfortable in their new community. The program has been active for three years, but has been around for five to six years, where it was previously called ‘Host Family’. While the number of students varies every semester, this current semester there are four students in the program, with students being enrolled based on their request.
“I think on both sides the international students are looking to gauge their understanding of U.S. culture and what an American family is really like and having a friendship family is the best option to do that,” explained Noora Alie, Assistant Director of International Student Services.
The program not only benefits international students, but it also helps American families gain cultural understanding from all over the world.
Friendship Families do not provide students with housing or financial assistance, but do, however, create connections by having students come to their homes to have meals or go to restaurants, involve them in holiday celebrations, or take them to sporting events, shopping malls, or the movies.
The program has had many successes, allowing for students to gain a lot of knowledge and experience. Sidian Liu, an international student from Guangdong, China, said she got to know her Friendship Family before Valentine’s Day and they’ve already helped her with a few problems that she had.
“I was having a problem with American Medical system and my ‘big sister’ offered to help instantly after I voiced my problem,” explained Liu. “She also gave me a Valentine’s Day card and chocolates. I also met a Friendship Family of another international student. They are also super nice, and brought us to Pittsburgh. We had fun.”
The Friendship Family program is steadily becoming a more popular program with international students and the community. With the growing population of international students at SRU, it’s only going to grow further.
Those interested in the program can contact the Office for Global Engagement.