Since 2012 summer, Chinese students from the University of the Pacific (Pacific) have formed an intimate relationship with local families. As an international student at the University of the Pacific, I am fortunate to feel such warmth as if I am at home with my families.
It all started with the American Friendship Family Program, a program that was initiated by group of individuals who wanted to help international students, especially Chinese students, to adapt to American culture and build friendship with local families. The program attracts 20-47 students each year.
The matching event partnered me with a local couple – Keith & Kerry, along with three other Chinese students. Thus I became a new member of Keith & Kerry’s family. My American family’s house is just a block away from the campus. The backyard is well decorated with a mini golf course, a towering old tree, neon lights, grass sound systems, a gazebo, a small bridge over the flowing stream, art sculptures, red lanterns, etc. The combination of Chinese and Western styles and well-matched vintage and modern atmosphere produce audiovisual enjoyment, as if we are at Suzhou Gardens in China.
Because the house is so close to the campus, we have held lots of welcoming events and parties for Chinese students and scholars at the backyard of the place throughout the years. At the beginning of each school year, all American families get together in our backyard, where we prepared BBQ and delicious food, welcomed new Chinese students, and got acquainted with one another through games. The process also helped us to match upcoming students with their families.
Each American family has three to five Chinese “children.” Together, we celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter with our American families. Whenever we have time, we would go attend concerts or go on trips. We experience American culture and values. Meanwhile, we invited our American families to Mid-Autumn Festival Luncheon and Spring Festival Party hosted by Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) at Pacific.
Keith & Kerry wait on me hand and foot. Whenever I encounter obstacles, they will help me out right away. I WeChat Keith & Kerry and inform them of my life every day. When I told my parents (in China) that I had an American family, they felt delighted and relieved. Along the way, my parents had built a profound friendship with Keith & Kerry. When they visited me last summer, Keith & Kerry’s goodness, enthusiasm and hospitality had impressed my parents deeply. They spent a happy and unforgettable time with my American family, and they’ve been more relieved about my life in America.
The American Friendship Family Program at Pacific strengthens Sino-US cultural exchange and facilitates the friendship between China and America, while exposing Chinese students to different education experiences in the U.S.