By Joao Vitor Bonanoni/ Staff Writer
Every year, students from all over the globe decide to come to the United States to chase dreams and live unique experiences. However, being away from home, friends, and family is not always easy. The uncertainty of things and the struggle with cultural and language barriers are inevitable. Unfortunately, a significant number of foreign students give up on their dream of studying abroad and decide to return to the comfort of their home country, based on these challenges.
As an International student, I have noticed this issue since my freshman year in 2019. More than half of my international friends and classmates returned to their homes within their first year of college. Some of the reasons were related to financial issues and family problems, but mainly to adaptability struggles.
But is there anything that could better support international students and provide a better experience during their college life? Anything that could create a stronger connection between students and the college? Between students and the community?
The host family program “Adopt-A-Viking” has been connecting local families with International and Domestic students and is one of the solutions to these questions. This program gave me and many others the opportunity to find a safe harbor that shares love and support in an amazing way.
Throughout the years, I had the opportunity to enjoy great moments with them and also count on their support during difficult times. Personally, I went through hard moments during my college life, such as missing home, losing relatives, friends, and health problems. However, thanks to the support of my host family, I was able to pull through these struggles in a better way.
During the past semesters, it is notable the increasing number of students who have been looking forward to being “adopted.” This shows how host families have been positively impacting international students and their college experience. On holidays, breaks, matches, and birthdays, students have been receiving love and support from their new families.
With that impact, this program has also been improving the number of students who stay in the United States and consequently at Missouri Valley College. At the same time, the program increases the connection between students and the community. It can also strengthen the relationship with local businesses, which aids in building an important cultural exchange. Based on my personal experience, students involved in the program are more likely to know, visit, and interact with local businesses based on the influence of their “American family”.
“Adopt-A-Viking” has been trying to grow the number of local families who participate in the matching process, therefore increasing the number of students in the program. However, the community still presents some barriers and obstacles. Kim and Adam Viquesney, Marilyn Ahrens, Marita Avilez and Scott Westfall have been working to share the benefits of the program with local families. The Viquesneys and Ahrens have been the main responsible parties for the program, which now counts around 20 local families. The program also counts on the support of The Bridge College Ministry and Missouri Valley International Club.
“Adopt-A-Viking” certainly provides a mutually beneficial impact to international students and local families. With a caring “home-away-from-home” experience, the program aims to match families with students eager to learn about American culture.