WLU friendship family program for international students

The Rollie Williams International Center at West Liberty University (WLU) offers the opportunity for individuals to become a “friendship family” for international students. The friendship family program helps create long-lasting relationships and assists international students in learning American culture. Friendship families are there when an international student needs them.

According to the friendship family program application, “Our friendship family program matches our international students, usually exchange students, with a local volunteer family. The students have room and board on campus, but a friendship family gives the student a very important opportunity to interact with a real American family in a non-campus setting.” Not only are friendship families valuable to our international students, but they are also beneficial to the host families as well. Friendship families are able to learn about where the international student is from and the culture they celebrate. Everyone involved experiences and learns something new.

“The friendship family helps international students feel more at home. This program helps to introduce international students to the campus and community quickly through individual family friendships and connections,” said Ryan Glanville, coordinator of international programs and recruiting.

George Bagrov is an international student from Russia. He has attended WLU for six months. Bagrov does not belong to any particular major but is currently taking a lot of music classes and a Spanish class. Bagrov noted that he met his friendship family before they were declared “friends” and he adores being around them. “I absolutely love my friendship family. I feel like we have a lot in common. I always turn to them for any sort of advice or help.” He added, “It’s nice to have someone in a foreign country that you can rely on and trust too, so I was very lucky to meet those people.”

Dr. Felipe E. Rojas is an associate professor of Spanish and the diversity committee co-chair at WLU. Dr. Rojas is a part of Bagrov’s friendship family. “After chatting with George Bagrov and Ryan Glanville, I decided to apply.” The application process did not take very long and Glanville got back to Dr. Rojas in less than a week, according to Dr. Rojas. During Dr. Rojas’ time in the friendship family program, he hopes to “be a mentor in whatever capacity that may take.”

“Some international students are here for a semester, others a year and others for a full degree. I hope that I can share a bit of my experiences and give advice on where to travel during breaks,” said Dr. Rojas. He noted that Bagrov went to Chicago during Thanksgiving break and he was able to give him a bunch of recommendations on where to go, what to do and what to eat. “I am a big proponent of creating global citizens both in and outside the classroom. If I am able to help international students understand some customs or have a stronger impact during their stay, I think I’ve done my job as an educator.”

The friendship family program began at WLU in the fall of 2009 when exchange students began visiting the university, according to Glanville. He noted that only a few individuals have applied for the friendship family program this semester and that there are interested international students still in need of a friendship family.

Glanville and Dr. Rojas encourage all interested individuals to apply for the program. “If we want more international students to study at WLU, we need to show them why our campus and community is worth the trip,” said Dr. Rojas.

For more information on how to join the friendship family program, visit the Rollie Williams International Center located on the first floor of Shotwell Hall, email Ryan Glanville at [email protected] or call at (304) 336-8382.