Hospitality is a worldwide concept, and by doing it bigger in Texas, local families can make sure students from all over the world feel at home here in the Brazos Valley. The Texas Families program at Texas A&M University is looking for families who would welcome the chance to really bring that message home to students from around the globe.
A program of the English Language Institute at Texas A&M, Texas Families is just one component of the American Customs and Culture course for students who have come from other countries to study at the university.
“These students are the best of the best,” says Sue Ellen Davis, lecturer and coordinator for the Texas Family program. “They have to be to earn a sponsorship to study in a foreign country.” The classes are designed to immerse students in American customs and traditions as well as teach the nuances of the American language.
Being a Texas Family volunteer doesn’t just benefit the student; it is a learning experience for the family, as well. “Texas Families whose children are studying geography and social studies can really give their children an academic edge by having conversations with these very intelligent international students,” says McIntyre. “Our program benefits both those who give and those who receive. In fact, many families have felt that they received more benefits than they gave during the semester.”
“Sometimes, potential Texas families think they are not special enough to take part in this program,” says lecturer and coordinator Catherine McIntyre, “but our students want to attend ball games at the high school or elementary schools. They want to fish in a pond, play board games, or go to the playground in the evening after a cookout in the back yard. All our ordinary family fun is new and different to them.”
Bryan resident Jan Lee has participated in the Texas Family program and says it has been easy and fun to include these students in her everyday life. “There’s no reason to do anything out of the ordinary,” says Lee. “We have gone to First Friday, cooked meals at home, spent time at our shop and listened to music at the venues downtown. We’ve shared pictures of our families and become Facebook friends. Two of our students got their very first Easter baskets, and I had fun trying to find at least one thing from ‘home’ to put in them.”
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
“It is a wonderful little world, and the world is right here,” says Sue Ellen Davis, Texas Family Coordinator for Texas A&M University. Families interested in participating in this program that pairs volunteers with Texas A&M students from other countries may contact the English Language Institute before September 22 to become a Texas Family for the fall semester. Visit eli.tamu.edu for more information on the English Language Institute or call (979) 845-7936 to sign up as a Texas Family.
On September 29 at 6 p.m., Texas A&M students enrolled in the program and volunteer families will meet for the first time at a dinner arranged by the English Language Institute. This offers the perfect opportunity to arrange the next time when families and their student will get together again and to talk about what types of activities the students would like to join in with their volunteer family. – by Tessa K. Moore