On September 9th, international students and their community friends gathered on Lyon’s campus. This semester, Lyon has welcomed 35 international students from 20 different countries, 18 of whom are new to campus. There are also 22 families acting as community friends.
The Community Friends program started in the late 1990s. It assigns international students to families in the local community that are interested in learning about different cultures. They are willing to help international students so that the students feel more comfortable with Batesville, which is very far from their homes. Since most community friends live around Batesville, the students can learn a lot about life in the U.S. by sharing what they have experienced before coming abroad. They spend time together sharing their background cultures throughout a semester or more. Especially for international athletes, their families go to their games and cheer them on. This doesn’t just help international students get to know the local community more, but it also provides opportunities to create more connections there.
Joni Bube, the International Student Adviser, explained that this program lets us “learn to appreciate other languages and customs.” She added, “You get to share who you are, and in many ways, it makes the world smaller, too, because you are not really that different. There are commonalities.” Also, she said that there are some friendships which have lasted long even after the students graduated and left Batesville. This program gives people opportunities to create lifelong relationships. She explained the connection "goes all kinds of ways. Family to family, student to student, students to their friends. In that way, it expanded."
Donna Middleton, who is one of our community friends, said, “We like other cultures, so we like to get to know more about other cultures. Also, we like to make a personal connection with people from other countries and from other cultures.” She explained that she and her husband strive to be “a family for people that are away from their home.”
As one of the international students at Lyon, I appreciate this program because it has given me lots of opportunities. Talking to my community friends about daily life and getting in touch with the local community has allowed me to experience much more than I could have expected without this program. Making friends with somebody always takes time, but this program gave me the first step to meeting and understanding people away from home. I’m sure it helps us to feel like we are a part of this community.