According to Jean Griswold, now a volunteer at Fort Collins International Center after retiring from 25 years with Colorado State, there are still a handful of international students who are waiting for a family in the Fort Collins community to teach them about life in America.
“Many [international students] go their entire time here without ever being invited into an American household,” said Griswold. “International Friends help them get acquainted with life here.”
Introduced as part of the International Center in the 1970s, the program aims to pair a student from another country with a person in the community. Currently, they are looking for more CSU faculty and staff to become involved.
Hear from some of members of the Ram Family who have opened their homes to a student from another country:
Ping Dou, International Programs Volunteer
Ping Dou came to CSU from Beijing, China, in her late 20s and stayed as part of the exchange program herself. Now, Dou wants to give to international students the warmth and compassion that she received. She has been hosting with International Friends since 2009, and calls the program the “best in the country.”
“The students I have hosted always call me – they call me ‘aunt’, ‘stepmom’ and mostly ‘teacher’… They can call me anytime, for anything they need. I want them to feel that they are cared and supported.”
Susan Athey, Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems, College of Business
Susan Athey and her husband like to travel, so after she saw a story about the International Friends program on the University website, they decided to offer the American experience to foreign students. They even helped their students get married – to each other.
“We were witnesses to their marriage,” Athey said. “The program helps these students have someone to be comfortable with.”
Susan MacQuiddy, Director of Counseling Services at CSU Health Network
Because their children had been adopted from there, Susan MacQuiddy and her family were excited to get the opportunity to host students from South Korea. Through the International Friends Program, they were able to experience the world, without even leaving home!
“Our family really enjoyed our time with our international students and their families…We met some wonderful people, and it was a great way to learn more about our kids’ birth culture,” she said.
Tara Brandenburg, Instructor at INTO CSU
Tara Brandenburg spent time abroad during her undergrad studies and realized how important it was to make a connection with someone from the culture she was living in. She has been helping exchange students with the program for three years, and teaches them about American holidays and traditions like tailgating at CSU football games.
“[International Friends] is a way to learn about foreign students’ perceptions and be more sensitive to them,” she said. “It can be really beneficial to faculty and staff.”
Ways to get involved
The International Friends Program is seeking CSU faculty and staff looking to engage with our growing international student community. Short- and long-term opportunities are available to enhance a student’s experience in Fort Collins.
International Friend Host
Year-long, monthly commitment to meet with an international friend. Volunteers will be matched with a student with similar interests and activities, as determined through the online application.
Five-night commitment to host a newly arriving student in your home, providing a bed and some meals, during the first half of August. Learn more.
Community Welcome Dinner Host
A one-time commitment to provide dinner to new international students on Tuesday, Aug. 18, from 5:45 to 8 p.m. Apply online.