For the past 5 years, Andy has been a Friendship Volunteer for Suntara from Thailand, who will be graduating RIT in January 2017. Andy says one of the favorite things she does with students is taking them to Niagara Falls. “I just love to see how excited each time they are to see one of the world's amazing wonders” Andy said. Her student, Suntara, had many fond memories, but one of the best times was when they spent dinner or a holiday together, as it reminded him of a “family feeling”. Suntara further explained that it can be tough for an international student to be away from home, but having Andy as a Friendship Volunteer made it less difficult. Even when Andy’s students move away or return home, they continue their friendship. Andy still receives a call from Uzbekistan every Thanksgiving from a student she hosted 5 years ago and continues to call and say "Happy Thanksgiving Mom!”
Andy could go on and on with memorable stories such as these. For instance, one time she took 3 Indian students to Lake Ontario and they were so amazed because they never had seen a big body of water before. She can’t remember a time that her family did not have an international student. She explained that there were so many fun things the family and international students did together, from pumpkin picking, 4th of July celebrations, and sharing traditional American meals such as Chili. Andy only required one thing of her students- to have them make a traditional meal from their native country. She has had the luxury of trying authentic foods from all regions of the world- without ever leaving her home.
Something as simple as a cup of chili can help international students experience and better understand American culture, while further enriching their lives through meaningful friendships. It also allows locals to learn about other cultures and meet people from places around that they would have never had the opportunity otherwise. Anyone can be a Friendship Volunteer, and share these enriching experiences with international students, such as Andy has.
There are currently over 60 international students on the wait list and they are waiting for locals to extend a hand of friendship. Sign up today to be a Friendship Volunteer and discover the world we have here in Rochester.