Friendship Family Host Program Rewards Everyone“I miss my family and my dog,” says Hawa Song, a transfer student at the Providence Campus’ College of Culinary Arts. Typical college student emotions, except Song is 6,500 miles away from her native South Korea. “But,” she smiles, “here Bill’s [Priante] family is like my family and it’s really nice.”Johnson & Wales University’s International Center launched the Friendship Families and Holiday Visits programs for Song and JWU’s more than 1,100 international students from 89 countries. Director of university admissions recruitment and training, Bill Priante ’90 jumped on board. Work has taken him across the globe, and hosting Song and Jongwon Kim keeps Priante entrenched in what attracts and retains JWU’s international population. “I live in Natick, Mass., with limited opportunities to interact with different cultures,” he says. “Selfishly, this has been incredible for me, my wife and kids, siblings, their families, even my parents, mother-in-law and grandparents.”This American family has gained insight into a different heritage and respect for the sacrifices people make when they leave their families and travel to advance their education, career and language skills. They also have a better understanding of what Priante does on a daily basis and the scope and reputation of JWU’s career education model.
For Song and Kim it has made assimilating into the U.S. a little easier, allowing them to focus on their college experience. They were thrilled that Priante was a fellow JWU grad who had visited Woo Song University and knew their faculty. But enjoying a home-cooked meal, a reassuring hug from a grandparent figure and playing with the Priante children and family dog is what has made them feel “at home.”
International students are paired with a returning domestic or international “student buddy,” “but cross cultural relationships with a family lend a perspective on American culture they can’t get on campus,” says international community coordinator Lindsay Valdivia. “It’s another friendly resource outside of student services, they can tap into. It’s enriched our staff, faculty and their families, and we’re hoping JWU alumni will also participate.”The JWU program balances the wants, needs and requirements of participants with institutional policies. “My mother and father thank Bill so much,” says Song, “my mother likes this program.”