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August 8, 2013

International Friendship: A win-win opportunity

Connecting with those from other countries expands both friends' worldview, and making such a friend is easy to do with International Friendship at Purdue. Individuals, couples, and families at Purdue or in the area can connect with one or more international students.

To learn more about this opportunity, potential volunteers can come to one of the sessions below. Each is on the second floor of the West Lafayette Public Library, 208 W. Columbia St. (www.wlaf.lib.in.us):

* Option 1: Aug. 8 (Th), 6:30-7:30 p.m., Walnut Room
* Option 2: Aug. 13 (Tu), 6:30-7:30 p.m., Walnut Room
* Option 3: Aug. 21 (W), 6:30-7:30 p.m., Walnut Room

One volunteer in this program describes her first impression upon meeting her student. "The first time Huijun came to our house, she was so appreciative," says Susan Puterbaugh, IFP volunteer. "She said she had dreamed about doing this, to have another family in America."

Hosts are encouraged to share activities with their students about once a month until the end of the academic year.

"For me, being in the friendship program was a great opportunity," says Alireza Asgari, Purdue student. "I was introduced to a very great family. First they helped me to become familiar with the environment -- like where to go shopping, restaurants and other daily facilities. Then we talked a lot with each other about each other's culture. They cooked their meal, and I cooked some Iranian food."

Marcus Hammack, immigration counselor in the Office of International Students and Scholars, says most hosts invite their students to dinner at home, on a picnic or to an interesting place or event in the area.

In recent weeks, more than 2,000 new international students have been arriving at Purdue, he says.

Asgari's friendship volunteers were Lars and Jan Nielson. "It started with Ali and then his buddies started coming," Lars says. "They play with our kids [three boys], and we watched the World Cup together, especially the German games. It is a breath of fresh air to have guys around who don't mind talking and sharing their thoughts. It is great."

Hosts undertake no legal, financial or housing obligations, Hammack says. They simply gain a friend and a glimpse of another culture and perspective.

For more information, come to one of the information sessions above, call Hammack at 49-67528, or email friendship@purdue.edu. Information can also be found at www.iss.purdue.edu/Programs/IFP.