Local

November 27, 2013

Community Friends Program seeks sponsors to host international students

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Maranda Flynn
Staff Writer

International military officers who train at U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, met for an International Military and Sponsor Luncheon at the Thunder Mountain Activity Centre, Sept. 26.

The International Military Student Office is actively seeking sponsors for the Community Friends Program — a hospitality program intended to provide international students the opportunity to become acquainted with the American lifestyle.

Every year, more than 150 international military officers, from more than 65 different countries, train at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, under the International Military Student Office, or IMSO.

As a sponsor, or community friend, each host will assist the international officer in understanding the American people and culture by inviting them along to special activities at home and within the community. It is important for sponsors to be knowledgeable about the United States and be ready to answer their questions.

International military students and their sponsors enjoy lunch at the annual Community Friends Appreciation Barbeque at the Thunder Mountain Activity Centre, Aug. 16. A Community Friends Program sponsor provides opportunities for the international students to become acquainted with the American life and culture.

Fikretta “Kika” Grant, IMSO Field Studies Program manager, explained that many of the international students have never left their country, and there are a lot of cultural differences here in the U.S.

“The Community Friends Program is important for the students because it gives them an opportunity to see who we are as people, and not what they see on television,” Grant said. “[The students] have many different perceptions of us, and I think that the local community changes those perceptions.”

Grant chaperoned seven international students to Washington, D.C. recently, where they visited the White House, Arlington Cemetery, the Pentagon, various museums, and many other cultural and educational attractions.

When they return to their home country, students often relate their experience in the U.S. with their interactions with their sponsors. “You must have a sincere interest in making the student feel at home,” Grant said.

Sponsors should invite the student to attend some type of activity at least once a month.

Entertainment should be simple because students prefer to experience the traditional American lifestyle.

“We aren’t asking anyone to house the students. We want people to volunteer to spend time with them, to have dinner with them. Maybe take them out to a movie or hiking. Any activity makes a huge difference,” Grant said.

Charlie Plummer, a current Community Friend sponsor, said, “Potential civilian sponsors should understand that there are no formal obligations and that the level of involvement is up to you, but any amount of contact is almost always appreciated.”

Plummer further explained that his contact with the international students has been rewarding for his Family as well. “This is a great way to informally learn more about various countries and cultures while sharing just a small picture of our own lives,” he said.

Those who decide to become a community friend will be asked a few questions about their background and interests to better match them with a student. Sponsors are not limited to one student or one country.

For more information about the Community Friends Program, or to be a sponsor, contact Grant, 533.0678 or Fikretta.Grant.civ@mail.mil.




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