Going to college is a big adjustment for anyone. Going to college in a foreign country makes the adjustment even bigger. California Baptist University has a program in place to help international students feel at home and connected.
The American Family Program, operated by the International Center, gives international students a family here in Riverside to serve as a support system far from home, said Marie King, a graduate assistant at the International Center. Students from Rwanda and students enrolled in the Intensive English Program are required to be in the family program, but all international students are welcome to be part of it, King said.
She finds families from the staff at CBU and local churches. Each student and family fills out a profile and then are matched. The commitment for families and students is for at least the academic year, with the potential of being longer, King said. Families have the students over for the holidays and often get together throughout the school year for other activities. Both sides are expected to communicate weekly.
Ken Sanford, student teacher supervisor, and his wife, Denise, started as a host family last year for two Chinese students and are continuing this year with those students. Sanford has been to China through participation in International Service Projects for five years in a row, and he has gotten to know international students at CBU. Sanford and his wife have had the students over for meals, gone out for dinner and visited an amusement park. They touch base with each other almost every day.
It’s essential for international students to feel supported while far away from home, King said. The International Center also offers the Intensive English Program, helps run International Chapel and holds events for international students, such as a Disneyland trip and International Celebration Week, in hopes that they will connect with other students.
The American Family Program is a great representation of Seizing our Destiny’s unified city pillar. We are a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all. The long-standing diversity of the City provides a comfortable home for people from all backgrounds, cultures and interests – Riverside is a city for everyone and by everyone.
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