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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

International Friends group hosts info session

International Friends, a non-profit volunteer program, held its first host information session of the semester on Wednesday.

International Friends is an organization that pairs Tucson residents with the UA’s incoming international students. They use a new online matching program in which an American host selects an international student by looking at basic information like similar interests, length of the students’ stay and gender. Although International Friends refers to its volunteers as “hosts,” it is not a live-in program. Once volunteers and students have been paired, hosts are expected to commit to the program for a minimum of one year.

According to Pamela Obando, an associate director for Residence Life, more than 700 international students came to the UA last August. Obando said the organization’s goal is to be a friend to international students and to share “our American life” with these students.

“I find that they want to see and do everything,” Obando said. Rachel Petro, a prospective host and a sophomore studying Spanish and Italian, emphasized the importance of community-building and exposure to various cultures.

“I know how important it is to build communities when you move to a new country, and for myself, I like to surround myself with different cultures and perspectives,” Petro said.

International Friends encourages volunteers to host two or three students because it allows international students the opportunity to meet more people. This Sunday, the program will host “Fiesta de Amigos” from 3 to 5 p.m. at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. International Friends also hosts welcome dinners when students first arrive. Obando spoke fondly of her last welcome dinner with three women from India, Australia and England.

“We were having so much fun and talking so much that it was 11 and I realized we were still sitting around my dining room table,” Obando said.

International Friends is affiliated with the UA’s Office of International Student Programs and Services that brings new international students to the UA. Anyone interested can apply to be a host online. More than 100 new international students have already been paired with a host.

“The students who come here are really excellent students,” Obando said. “They have worked really hard to come here.”

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