Currently, Northern State University has approximately 200 international students from 30 countries. During their stay, these students want to learn about and experience American family culture. The Friendship Family Program is designed to connect international students with local American families.
Many international students feel homesick and lonely in Aberdeen, so members of the Friendship Family Program help students feel welcome and comfortable by taking them in like they are family.
Not only do families help students experience American culture, but students also introduce these families to their own home culture. Essentially, the international students and their American families participate in a cultural exchange.
Some Friendship Families also take trips to South Korea, China, and other countries to visit their “international children” after the students go back to their home countries.
The Office of International Programs hosts many events for students and families to have fun together, such as game nights, pot luck dinners, and Wolves sporting event.
The majority of international students don’t have cars, so Friendship Families take them to go bowling, to Wiley Park, and to other places to enjoy activities around Aberdeen.
Jim and Rose Ragatz have been a part of the Friendship Family Program since the fall of 2011. Jim heard about the program at a community service meeting and became interested in joining. The Ragatz family is a very loving and supportive family to international students.
They recommend this program to others saying not to “get nervous about the commitment. Just do the normal things you would do as a family, and invite your students to join you. You will soon think of them as your own kids. It will be a good opportunity for your family.”
It is not difficult to be involved as a Friendship Family. The students live on campus and they are all responsible for their own budgets, so it is more like when Americans have adult children that are capable of living on their own.
Currently, the Office of International Programs has 20 Friendship Families and 60 students that are involved with these families. More families would make the program work even better, though, because it does have so many students enrolled.
If any families are interested in joining the Friendship Family Program, they can contact the Office of International Programs at firstname.lastname@example.org.