When international graduate student Sijun Shen totaled her car last year, she had no idea what to do.
How was she going to talk to the police or the insurance company? Was her smoking car going to explode? She didn’t know. But she knew who would.
Shen had host parents to help her in a moment of crisis, thanks to the Host Family Program created by the Office for Multicultural Enrichment.
On Sunday, other international students will have the opportunity to meet potential host parents, who can help them adjust to American culture, just as Shen’s host parents did for her.
The OME will have its Host Family Program interest meeting at 2 p.m. in the Bean’s conference room. Shen, along with other participants in last year’s program have volunteered to attend and encourage students to take part in the program.
Sylvia Huang, a former international student, and the OME director, George Pendergrass, started the program last year. Huang was working as a graduate intern at OME, and co-worker Pendergrass served as a mentor and “spiritual leader” for her.
“I started the program last year to help international students adjust to America,” Huang said. “My experience as an international student has made me able to sympathize with the anxieties of living in a foreign country. It made me want to do something more.”
Huang earned her undergraduate degree in China and her graduate degree in social work at ACU. She now works at an agency in Midland that helps persecuted Christians.
“Many international students struggle with feelings of depression, homesickness and other mental struggles that host parents can help them through,” Huang said.
Leading international students to Christ is a less-advertised purpose of the Host Family Program.
“Many international students come to ACU as Christians, but there are some who come who aren’t,” Shen said. “We want to express love and care that will eventually lead students to God.”
Seven host families and 15-20 international students participated in the program last year.
“My host parents helped me so much,” Shen said. “I want other students to have the same experience.”