An international student’s unique host family

Woldemariam’s (right) host family consists of students at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School. — Jeanne Edson/TRUMPET

For many Wartburg students, the comforts and familiarity of home, family and friends are just a phone call or a short drive away. The international student population does not have those luxuries.

Wartburg has recognized the solace a host family can provide to an international student

Fitsum Woldemariam has a unique host family. Woldemariam is paired with. Lisa Rupp’s third grade class from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School.

Because of his unique placement, Woldemariam has the opportunity to meet a variety of local families, Jenna Rinehart, director of international student services, said.

“We believe this experience will give him a truer sense of the local culture, since he has the chance to interact with families from many different backgrounds,” Rinehart said.

Host families are invited to take part in several activities on campus to help further their relationship with their international student.

“We asked them [the third grade class at St. Paul’s] to have one or more of the families from the class attend and provide food at each of the three events (potlucks) that we have throughout the year with all of the host families,” JoAnn Strottman, office coordinator of the international programs office, said.

Woldemariam said he looks forward to interacting with the third graders.

“I do not purposely go to my host families to teach them anything, but in my visit we share different life experiences,” Woldemariam said. “I do not demand anything from my host families. Having a  good relationship with them is enough for me.”

The students will benefit from the experience, Rinehart said.

“We hope that building a relationship with someone from a different country will pique the third grade students’ interest in exploring other cultures in the future,” Rinehart said. “These students can learn at a young age that individuals who may initially seem very different from you actually share many similarities.”

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