UH-Hilo welcomes international students during annual host families reception

  • Courtesy photo University of Hawaii at Hilo international students and their host families gathered on campus Sept 20.

International students at the University of Hawaii at Hilo were welcomed by host families during a Sept. 20 reception on campus.

The host family program matches international students with families in the local community to help students adjust to and thrive in Hawaii as well as develop an ohana in Hilo.

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“It’s a way for new students not only to become part of the local community beyond the campus, but for families to learn more about other cultures and countries,” said Jim Mellon, who organizes the program and serves as director of UH-Hilo’s International Student Services.

“The program builds bridges between the campus and the community, and between cultures and nations. Students benefit from the program as well as host families, whose students enrich their own lives.”

For example, Barb and Kim Magnuson have hosted students since the program began nearly eight years ago. They created such strong and lasting relationships with their students that they traveled to Korea to attend the wedding of the first student they ever hosted. The former student and her husband are planning to visit the Magnusons in Hilo during the upcoming holidays.

Nearly 100 new international students from 24 countries enrolled at UH-Hilo this year. Enriching the ethnic and geographic diversity at UH-Hilo, students came from around the globe, including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, the Federated States of Micronesia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, the Marshall Islands, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Serbia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and Vanuatu.

UH-Hilo has joined with Welcoming America and hundreds of communities nationwide to welcome and recognize international students and scholars, immigrants and refugees through activities such as the host family program. Other recent events on campus included a welcome party for new and returning international students and a buddy program that pairs new international students with an American friend.

“These events are part of a powerful and growing movement in our country and around the world demonstrating that communities want to be welcoming,” said Rachel Peric, executive director of Welcoming America.

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In the UH-Hilo host family program, students do not live with their hosts, but rather meet with them occasionally throughout the year for activities such as dinner, attending a concert or Vulcans athletic games or a trip to a favorite swimming or hiking place.

Anyone interested in hosting an international student should contact Mellon at mellon@hawaii.edu or 932-7467.

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