Davis & Elkins College is initiating a new program to help international students become more acclimated to our local community and the college.
Lowe Del Aviles is the international student liaison at D&E. "We are looking for host families to help make these students feel more at home and to have a mentor," Aviles said. "Some of the students will be arriving about two weeks before the dorms open and host families will provide a welcome place for students and help transition students into the culture of Elkins."
Aviles said there are about seven families from the community who have already volunteered as host families.
Special to The Inter-Mountain, Beth Christian Broschart
Davis & Elkins College International Student Liaison Lowe Del Aviles discusses the Host Family Program with students, faculty and host families.
Aviles moved to the United States from the Philippines. "It breaks your heart to come to a country and know no one," Aviles said. "You are lonely, you miss your food and you miss your family."
Host families can show students around the area and introduce them to folks, teach them about the arts, history and culture of Elkins and be a home away from home. Students will also teach families about their culture, foods, arts and customs. "It is a win-win situation," Aviles said.
The Vial family has already opened its home and volunteered to host international students.
"We have had the pleasure of hosting international students in the past and find it to be as enriching for our family as it is for the students," Tina Vial said. "We have hosted students from Japan and Central America and have learned so much of their culture and customs; we also enjoyed helping them learn about our communities and culture."
"When we were in Kentucky, our church took international students from the University of Louisville under our wing," Davis Memorial Presbyterian Minister Rev. Peter Vial said. "We sponsored a chili and volleyball night for the students and parishioners to meet, eat, talk, play and have a great time. The program was wonderfully received by both the students and those who came from the community."
Scott Goddard, coordinator of campus activities at D&E, thinks the Host Family Program is an opportunity for Elkins folks to be goodwill ambassadors.
"Volunteers are the welcome wagon to this fine, friendly town," Goddard said. "We have a unique opportunity to make these students feel welcome from the get-go and they can be introduced not only to D&E College but the town of Elkins. This is a wonderful opportunity for the Elkins and D&E communities to work together for the common good."
Melody Loudin is the community services liaison at D&E College. Loudin, her husband, Jeffrey, and their son, Carter, are very excited to be a host family.
"By being a host family, we are shedding a positive light on Elkins and D&E," Loudin said. "It is helping bring these two entities closer together."
Carter Loudin was hoping the family would host a student from Africa because he loves to play soccer. "Our host student is from Pakistan," Melody Loudin said. "Carter was not disappointed, and he can't wait to meet them and find out all their life in Pakistan."
Because Loudin and her husband work, they were concerned about their host student being lonely during the day.
"Aviles explained that she has plenty of work at D&E College for the international students to do during the day before classes begin," Loudin said. "We will be able to bring our student to D&E during the day while we work and have the evenings and weekends to share."
"Besides the two week's stay before the dorms open, we hope Host Families will include students in other activities with their family," Aviles said.
"Students are away from their families during holidays and special occasions," Aviles said. "Host Families may want to invite their student to dinner, for holidays or to share other arts and cultural activities in the area."
Davis & Elkins Admission Counselor Adam Kota is working with area financial institutions to see about international student accounts, currency exchange and wiring money.
"With approximately 50 international students expected for this term, I want to make sure it is easy for students to establish accounts and have access to currency exchange," Kota said. "It just helps elevate stress."
Issa Ilboudo came to Davis & Elkins College from Burkina Faso nine months ago.
"When I was young, I dreamed of a beautiful mountain area, and I always thought that dream was of my capital," said Ilboudo. "When I was older, I visited the capital and it was very flat. When I came to Elkins, I realized that this was the place in my dream; beautiful Elkins with its mountains, that is my favorite part of living here."
"The people in Elkins and the people of Davis & Elkins College have been very hospitable. I am glad my sponsors chose D&E College for me to attend."
Aviles said the international students are scheduled to make presentations to Youth Health Services, Women's Aid In Crisis and a few other groups to discuss their culture and customs.
"Our hope is that the staff will learn from the students and ask questions," said Aviles. "It is better to learn from others than to merely read about it in books."
Those interested in volunteering as a host family may call Aviles at 304-637-1211