Last year the University of Colorado Boulder had a record number of incoming international students, and the trend is expected to continue this year. Home countries for these students range from China to Algeria to Malaysia and Norway. And thanks to the welcoming members of the Boulder Friends of International Students (BFIS) program, these students have the opportunity to get to know host families who invite them to various events like hiking, concerts, ball games, or simply get together for dinner once a month.
Having a host family not only helps students adjust to life in the United States, but also can lead to long-lasting friendships, both with the family itself and with other students hosted by the same family, according to Ali Johnson, matching coordinator and programming intern with Boulder Friends of International Students. When asked about some fond memories of her host family, Tuba Evsan -- a student from Turkey -- shared that they had a fun tradition of playing games after meals when the family and students got together.
Though not required of hosts, students who apply for the BFIS program before they arrive in Colorado are sometimes met at the airport by their host families. For students like Tuba, who was shown around Boulder and CU by her host family before classes started, such an experience can help kick-start a successful semester.
Bernice and Jerry Moon have been involved as BFIS hospitality hosts since the 1970s, and have discovered the joy of lifelong friendships forged through the program. The Moons are now hosting their 76th student, in addition to staying in touch and occasionally visiting former students. Their son, now grown, was just three when they began hosting and grew up in a “mini-United Nations” surrounded by international diversity. They shared that “this experience was and still is the highlight of happiness in our lives”.
BFIS has been active in the CU and Boulder communities since 1955 and over that time has helped thousands of students adjust to life in the United States and at CU. As the numbers of international students continue to grow, so does the need for more hospitality families. Families can choose between the traditional hosting program, which means meeting regularly with their students for activities such as movies, dinners, hiking and museum visits. Or, they can join the Dinner Network, a one-time monthly commitment to host a dinner for a few international students. The Dinner Network is a good option for hosts and students who are very busy, though hosts find both options highly rewarding.
Through the BFIS program, students are also able to participate in more traditional, family oriented, events such as Thanksgiving or Halloween.
Photo courtesy of Boulder Friends of International Students.