Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. - Hebrews 13:2
Airport pickup provides a vital first point of contact with students. Often, it is the students who were first greeted by IFI volunteers who later participate in other IFI activities. The sooner an international student comes into contact with an IFI volunteer, the better, since internationals are usually most open to new friends and new experiences during their first year in the U.S.
Volunteers host these new students in their homes for up to four days while students finalize their arrangements for permanent housing. We ask that hosts provide a quiet place for guests to sleep, breakfast and dinner, and a means to get to and from campus each day.
Although there are opportunities throughout the year, volunteers are most needed during July and August. The peak time of arrival is the last week of July through the second week of August. Usually IFI is able to let you know about an opportunity for pickup and/or hosting within 1-2 weeks of the student’s arrival, although we occasionally have “last-minute” arrivals.
- How much luggage will this student have?
Well, they are coming for 9 months or more, so please don’t take your VW Bug to the airport! Plan on 3 bags, at any rate.
- What if I miss the student? Or what if he is so delayed that I can’t stay to pick him up?
Both you and the student will be given definite directions as to where to look for each other. If you have waited around and have exhausted all these possibilities, call our emergency number (given on the instruction sheet) and report that you cannot find the student. You have done all you can. If the student contacts you and says he will be greatly delayed and you can’t stay, again, call our emergency number. We will make other arrangements for the student.
- How long will this student stay?
On our website, we offer no more than 4 days. If you find that the student needs a little extra time, you have two options. You can say “yes”. Or you can call our office and we will make other housing arrangements for this student. You are NEVER obligated to keep a student longer than 4 days, but we do ask that you accept a student with the understanding that she may stay all 4 days.
- What meals am I responsible for?
Breakfast for sure, unless the student just wants to get to campus. No lunches, unless you want to pack one for him. Dinners are negotiable. If you cannot make dinner, you may feel free to let him cook his own. If not, just tell him that you will pick him up from campus after dinner, or meet him for dinner at a restaurant.
- Do I need to drive the student to and from campus every day?
The first day, absolutely yes. On other days, if and only if you are on a bus line with a SHORT ride to campus (1/2 hour or less), you can explain the bus route and procedures to the student and have them use COTA. Internationals use buses more than we do, but they are not used to the long waits for buses, so it is always friendlier to drive them if you can.
- What if I go to work early or come home late?
Students should be able to flex with your schedule, unless it is really wild. You could drop the student off at Wendy’s or somewhere else where he can study until classes start. The main library at OSU opens at 7:45 a.m., and is often open until midnight.
- I am uncomfortable having men in my home when my husband is not there.
Then let me know, and I will only send women to your home. However, I should add that students should be at classes all day, and rarely will be at your home during the day. Most Asian men are extremely polite to women, and will not be uncomfortable with you if you are not uncomfortable with them. They may even cook for you!
- If the student has never been in an American home, will it be awkward?
Entertaining, probably, and amusing, possibly, but it doesn’t need to be awkward. We do send ALL new students a longish email entitled “Tips for Staying in an American Home”, in which we make suggestions and give them some idea of what to expect. We encourage them to ask questions if they are unsure of anything, and we encourage you to ask them if they have ever been in an American home. If not, you might want to show them how the shower works, etc. Plan on having fun!
- Does the student need a private bathroom?
Most students are used to sharing bathrooms, and will probably defer to your use of it. If you need to have it free at a certain time, just tell them.
- Is it my responsibility to find permanent housing for this student?
No. The student should have received information on finding housing from the Office of International Education. As well, we have housing information for the student in the packet you will receive. You are always welcome to help out a student in this process if you wish, but it is not required.
- My friend offered to take a student for 4 days, and she ended up staying 2 weeks.
This student was definitely taking advantage of your friend, and we never permit that it if we know about it. The problem is that IFI volunteers are so nice that they feel guilty if they “complain” about a student! Please let us know if a student is overstaying her welcome, pushing you to do something you are uncomfortable with, or asking for things. We are here to help you, the volunteer, as well as the students.
- I don’t have a spare bedroom, but the student could share my son’s bedroom or sleep on a couch. Would this work?
We would prefer not to do this unless we were desperate. Students will be weary when they arrive, and often need privacy just to sort out their feelings.
- My student wanted to call home as soon as he got here. I didn’t want to pay for the long distance, but I didn’t know how to handle it.
You should not have to pay for overseas phone calls. Offer to take the student to a mini-market or a gas station that sells phone cards, so he can buy one and thus pay for his own phone calls.