UH Hilo welcomes new cohort of almost 100 international students; Host Family Program creates extended ‘ohana

Reflecting the inclusive spirit of the local community, UH Hilo’s international students are matched with host families in Hilo, giving them a sense of ʻohana.

Ruth Robison poses for photo with Ayshia Udui and Alirah Udui.
Ruth Robison (center), retired director of UH Hilo International Services, and students (l-r) Ayshia Udui and Alirah Udui, at the international student welcoming event held on campus Sept. 14. Courtesy photos for this story from Jim Mellon, director of UH Hilo International Student Services.

Nearly 100 new international students have enrolled at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo this fall semester. The ethnically diverse group was welcomed to their new home by host families at a reception held on campus Sept. 14.

UH Hilo’s intentional students are matched with host families each year to help the students adjust to their new life in Hawai’i. The Host Family Program helps the students develop a sense of ʻohana (family) in Hilo.

Overhead photo of the large group of students and host families.
The new fall 2018 cohort of international students was welcomed to Hilo by host families at a reception held on campus Sept. 14. Courtesy photos.

“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,” says Jim Mellon, director of UH Hilo’s International Student Services. “The program builds bridges between the campus and the community, and between cultures and nations.”

Barb and Kim Magnuson have hosted students since the program began about seven years ago. They have created such strong and lasting relationships with their students that they are traveling to Korea in November to attend the wedding of the first student they hosted.

Enriching the ethnic and geographic diversity at UH Hilo, students have come from all over the globe this year, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Germany, Japan, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Peru, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.

Embracing diversity

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. A welcome party for new and returning international students and a buddy program that pairs new international students with an American friend are among activities.

“UH Hilo’s participation in Welcoming America shows that in Hilo, people are coming together to create stronger, more prosperous communities,” Mellon says.

Jim Mellon and students officers stand for photo. The students all wear identical blue t-shirts.
Jim Mellon (center), director of UH Hilo International Student Services, and student officers of the university’s International Student Association. (Left to right) Felicia Andrew, Bertha Lotte, Alik Jackson, (Jim Mellon), Lucy Maino, Irie Taguchi, and Mirei Sugita.

“These events are part of a powerful and growing movement in our country and around the world demonstrating that communities want to be welcoming,” says Rachel Peric, executive director of Welcoming America. “At a time of rising anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies that hurt families, Welcoming Week is a reminder of the resilient and inclusive spirit of American communities.”

In the UH Hilo Host Family Program, students do not live with their hosts, but rather meet with them throughout the year for activities such as dinner, attending a concert or Vulcan’s athletic games, or a trip to a favorite swimming or hiking place.

For information about becoming a host family, contact Jim Mellon.

Media release

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