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Group pairs U.S. families with international students

September 06, 2012 12:00AM

For the more than 350 international students at Pittsburg State University, having American friends can make a huge difference in the quality of their U.S. experience and it often reshapes their view of Americans and American culture.

It’s also great fun and a great benefit for Americans, according to Cynthia Pfannenstiel, one of the leaders of the Host Family Program conducted by International Friends of Pittsburg (IFP).

This week, the IFP announced that it still had several openings for American host families.

“Even after all these years, I still learn new things from the international students I meet,” said Pfannenstiel, a professor emeritus who has been involved with the program for decades.

“The Host Family Program is basically a friendship program,” Pfannenstiel said. “The students do not live with the host families and there is no financial commitment.”

Instead, the families and their students plan activities together such as shopping, sports or other entertainment. The IFP encourages host families to meet with their international student at least once a month.

The IFP uses a questionnaire to match potential host families with international students who have expressed an interest in the program.

“We look for common interests so they will have something to talk about,” Pfannenstiel said.

Some of the friendships that have developed through the Host Family Program have lasted for decades and over many thousands of miles, Pfannenstiel said. And for many international students, the program has reshaped their view of the U.S.

“The view of the U.S. and American culture that many international students have is based on what they have seen on television,” Pfannenstiel said. “Getting to know a real American family gives them an entirely different perspective on who we are as a nation.”

Persons interested in the Host Family Program may contact Pfannenstiel at 620-249-1077 or 620-231-9114, or call the PSU International Programs and Services Office at 620-235-4680.

©2012 Pittsburg State University