Nearly 100 new international students from 24 countries have enrolled at UH Hilo this year. The host family program matches international students with families in the local community to help the students adjust and thrive in Hawai’i.
International students at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo were welcomed by host families last Friday at a reception on campus. The host family program matches international students with families in the local community to help the students adjust to and thrive in Hawai’i, as well as develop an ‘ohana in Hilo.
“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, 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.”
Nearly 100 new international students from 24 countries have enrolled at UH Hilo this year. Enriching the remarkable ethnic diversity at UH Hilo, students have come from all over the globe: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Federated States of Micronesia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, Marshall Islands, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Serbia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and Vanuatu.
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.
Barb and Kim Magnuson have hosted students since the program began about eight years ago. They have created such strong and lasting relationships with their students that they have 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.
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. Welcoming America, a national group, provides the roadmap and support institutions and communities need to become more inclusive toward immigrants and all residents.
“UH Hilo’s participation in Welcoming America shows that in Hilo, people are coming together to create stronger, more prosperous communities,” Mellon says.
Other recent events on the UH Hilo campus were a welcome party for new and returning international students and a buddy program that pairs up 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,” 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.”