Unlike a traditional host family, those who sign up with International Friends do not have students living with them. Instead, they serve as a resource to help their students navigate life in Cookeville and act as a second family.
“We’re getting a bunch of new students in January and we need families for them,” said International Friends president Heide Weidner. “Coming to a foreign country is a shock, especially if the cultures are very different. For a German coming to America, it’s not so bad, but for someone from Asia, for example, it’s very different.”
This fall, about 200 international students came to TTU for the first time. All but 15 of those who applied for a host family found one. Most families take more than one student.
Although Weidner said not as many international students are expected to come in the spring, the organization is always looking for new families.
“Our families say it’s a very rewarding experience, especially if they have children,” Weidner said. “They like to introduce their children to a world outside of Cookeville.”
Families who volunteer to host international students are asked to do something with them once a month. Weidner said she and her students attend free local concerts and art shows, take day trips to Nashville or Chattanooga, go hiking and attend other local events.
Most of the families who agree to host come back to do it again, she said. This spring, the organization will organize a hot chocolate and games evening on Feb. 4 and an international banquet on March 31.