International students experience American culture

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

The Family Friends program gave an estimated 30 international students a chance to experience the Western culture by living with American families; the office tries to place around 50 students a semester.

Kevin Vicker, the director of international students and scholars, said the program has been around a long time and it is a way for them to also experience families within the Charleston community as well as the American culture.

He said students could choose to stay with the host family as long as they stay in touch, or until either of the parties decides to part ways.

“It makes them feel like they’re at home here,” Vicker said.

This is their most popular program within the international office and 50 percent sign up in the beginning of the year, which makes it challenging when it comes to placing, Vicker said.

Sometimes, international students never get a chance to see the inside of an American home, so this is a way for them experience this at least once a month.

However, families can extend the stay for up to a year.

Those who participate in the program can do just about anything they want from celebrating holidays to sporting events and birthdays.

Vicker, who has participated in the program since 2011, currently has three international students living at his home now; one is from South Korea and the others are from Saudi Arabia. He said his children enjoy the company of the students, which allows them to learn about different cultures.

The program is a way of bridging the cultural gaps, which can lead to success in the future. Through the program, the students can experience not only the American culture, but the community can also embrace the international students.

“It’s a two-way street. Everybody benefits from that type of exchange,” Vicker said.

Vicker said the program would also help the students to learn how to navigate and they can develop a home away from home mentality. He said it is rewarding for them to feel more welcome and embraced within the community.

“They become a part of that family,” he said.

No direct costs are related to the program; the host family only needs to fill out an application and go through an interview process on what they are looking for specifically when it comes to culture and background of the student, Vicker said.

Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]