This fall at Missouri S&T international students will once again be paired with local individuals and families through the university’s International Friends Program. The program helps the students adjust to life in the United States and its participants often forge lifelong friendships.
“Former students still call us from around the world on birthdays and other special occasions,” says Keith Wedge, retired brigadier general and currently program manager for Advancia Corp., and a Missouri S&T graduate. “My wife, Bobbie, and I have many fond memories of time spent with the students.” The Wedges have been involved in the program for six years.
Students will be paired with community friends during a reception at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, in Missouri S&T’s Southwestern Bell Cultural Center, 1207 N. Elm St., in Rolla.
Through the program, members of the community and international students can share conversations, meals, and other activities. Sponsors are not asked to assist the students financially or provide housing.
“Students are always eager to learn more about American history and customs,” says Wedge. “One year we had students from China, India, Thailand, Turkey and Kuwait all together for Thanksgiving dinner at our home.”
Nancy Uri, executive assistant to the vice chancellor of university advancement at S&T, and her husband Tiny enjoy their role as surrogate parents for the students. “The kids miss their families just like your kids miss you while they’re away at college,” Uri says. “They want to be accepted and to have a homey feeling and experience here.”
Uri says the students enjoy sharing their culture and many are wonderful cooks. “If students enjoy cooking, let them cook for you,” she says.
She also says the commitment does not require a lot of time or money, just sharing some of your family’s events or customs, or theirs. “Students often join us for holidays and birthdays,” she says. “They’ve helped decorate our yard with pumpkins for fall, and have decorated our home for Christmas. One student even designed our Christmas card for us.”
Prospective participants are asked to fill out and return a questionnaire by Thursday, Oct. 15. The downloadable form is available online at international.mst.edu/students/internationalfriends.html, or you can call or stop by the S&T international affairs office at 573-341-6147 or Room 103 Norwood Hall.
Wedge believes more locals should participate in the program. “It is a unique experience and a great opportunity to learn more about our world.” Uri agrees, “The relationship with the students really energizes my husband and me.”
For more information on the program, contact Missouri S&T international affairs at 573-341-6147, or email Roberta Morgan, program coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.