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The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Home sweet home, away from home


Lily Bohlke, Copy Editor

For international students who may struggle with spending so much time so far away from home, and whose parents may also be worried about the distance, Friends of International Students (FIS) provides an invaluable service of matching students up with host families, who often become second families for their Grinnellian host students.

According to the FIS’ webpage, the program “facilitates student/community host friendships across culture, across generations and across communities.”

Subsequently, international students are given the opportunity to take advantage of having a host family or individual before they arrive at Grinnell their first year. Both the student and the host fill out interest forms and then the Office of International Student Affairs matches them up.

“It has something to do with helping international students get acclimated, because coming from different countries, it can be hard to get used to the culture,” said John Franca ’17, who hails from Brazil. “Having a host family helps to bridge that gap and just gives you a friend.”

host family graphic

While some host families choose to host a student to maintain a connection to student life at the College, others do so in order to gain international perspective.

“It had something to do with cultural diversity,” said Bazil Mupisiri ’18. “They wanted their grandkids to meet different people and learn about different cultures.” 

Tara Verma ’19 chose to be matched up with a host family for her own peace of mind as well as her parents’. Her host family serves as a resource if she needs help, or just as someone to hang out with when she feels stressed and needs a break from Grinnell’s busy and occasionally overwhelming campus.

“If I’m ever super stressed or anything I just go to their place for dinner and play with their pets and hang out,” Verma said. “For the ISO Food Bazaar, Takshil [Sachdev ’19] and I went and cooked in their kitchen. They are there if I ever need anything.”

Best of all, Verma and her host family have similar interests — both of Verma’s host parents are musicians, and her host mother’s favorite musical is the Sound of Music.

“When I first met [my host mother], I walked up holding a tote that was the Sound of Music,” Verma said. “She saw that and right away she said, ‘That’s my favorite musical. This is why we got paired up!’”

Franca said that he also has a strong and healthy relationship with his host family. They feel like “a family away from home” to him. Oftentimes, he will watch wrestling with his host family, cook together or sometimes Franca babysits their kids.

“I was surprised because I’m just this random college student from Brazil that comes into their house,” Franca said. “They just took me in and accepted me and we’ve learned so much from each other.”

Mupisiri added that his host family has been open with him and curious about him since he arrived on campus.

“They asked me questions about me and where I’m from, what kind of environment I come from and about my family,” he recalled. “I’m just free around them.”

According to Verma, although she is incredibly close with her host family and thinks they are wonderful people, there are some important differences between her host family and her real family. Franca agreed, clarifying that it was certainly not in a detrimental manner.

“Since they’re not my parents, they don’t have the same authority that my parents have over me. It’s a very close relationship, but there are certain dynamics [that] are different,” Franca said.

However, Mupisiri sees few differences between his host family and his family back home. He gets along with their children and grandchildren, and they get along with his relatives, for example, one of his aunts who visited Grinnell.

“They act like my family. Mentally, [I] know they are not,” Mupisiri said. “But they are basically the same.”

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