Adjusting to a new culture can be challenging – but at Binghamton, some friendly folks step in to help.
Friendship Family Program
The more than 635 new international students at Binghamton University, including a large cohort from Turkey enrolled in the University’s dual-diploma program, are eager to learn about the culture of Binghamton University, the region surrounding it – and the United States. But how does one go about that? With the help of a Friendship Family.
Coordinated by Binghamton University’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), the Friendship Family Program pairs international students with families or individuals from campus and the local area – and it’s all about flexibility.
Offering friendship and assistance to international students to help them adjust to their new living experiences, families provide help in a variety of ways says Diane Sliwinski, who coordinates the program for the ISSS. “The connection with a local family helps to ease feelings of loneliness and provides our international students with valuable information about things such as bus routes, banks, how to locate housing and how to set up utility services if necessary,” she says. “Some families even provide their own unused furniture and kitchen items for their student’s use.”
Friendship Families also reach out to ease feelings of loneliness and homesickness for students so far from home, often organizing weekly gatherings and helping students hone their English-speaking skills.
It’s a social relationship, says Sliwinski. And this flexible, social relationship could include family dinners; phone calls; attending concerts, movies or campus activities; visiting with a student in his or her apartment or residence hall; or talking over coffee or tea on campus. Students are encouraged as well to invite their Friendship Families to campus for events like the Family Weekend.
With 30 Friendship Families available to “adopt” students from countries including India, Nepal, Myanmar, Germany, China, South Korea, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Hong Kong, England, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, Columbia and Vietnam, nearly 100 international students will have an easier transition to their new surroundings.
Benefits go both ways, too, says Ellen Badger, ISSS director. “Families with children have become very attached to their students and have learned from them,” she says. “Many families have kept in touch with their students following graduation, even visiting the students in their home countries.”
Find out more about the Friendship Family Program
and the Office of International Student and Scholar Services