Venturing to a foreign country can be tough, especially for the 300 international students at Georgia Southern who leave their home countries to pursue a college education in Statesboro.
To ease some of the stress, Georgia Southern University's Center for International Studies tries to make their stay more comfortable by giving students a family away from home.
The International Extended Families Program pairs volunteer families from the community with international students allowing students to experience family life in the United States. Students do not live with their host families, but rather spend time with them to learn about life and culture in America.
"The whole purpose of the program is to exchange one another's cultures and learn from one another," said Angie Threatte, administrative specialist with the Center for International Studies.
Families and students participate in formal meetings and group activities through the Center, but they are encouraged to plan their own activities, such as cooking homemade meals, grocery shopping or traveling to Savannah, Threatte said.
"I want to communicate with local people in Statesboro," said Qingquing Liu, a student participant in the program from China. "The culture here is very different from China. The food, the transportation, and the shopping are very different. I'm very interested in these aspects."
It is through independent activities that families and students really learn from one another, Threatte said.
"The more people I get to know the better it is, because it helps me understand what their part of the world is like," said Dr. Leslie Fletcher, a participant in the program and accounting professor at GSU. "I think it's really important for Americans to put a positive spin on who we are because we get a bad reputation sometimes globally. It's this one on one that really helps."
Many international students do not have transportation and do not travel home for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The program offers a way for students to stay connected to the community and feel less alone in a new place.
"It gives them someone to hang out with. It makes them more comfortable and less homesick," said Parker Alexander, graduate assistant for the Center for International Studies. "We want to make this transition as easy as possible for the international students."
Volunteer families are still needed for the program. Those who are interested can apply online or contact Angie Threatte or Parker Alexander at (912) 478-1199.