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International Students: Home Away from Home for the Holidays

International Student group

Davidson College currently enrolls more than 130 students from 38 different countries.

For those who don't go home over breaks, the Dean Rusk International Studies Program staff makes sure they have a home away from home for the holidays.

For example, a campus food pantry and a community Thanksgiving feast sponsored by area churches were big hits this Thanksgiving, when residence halls remained open but dining facilities closed. When dorms close for the longer winter break, hospitality for international students gets even more personalized.

Sarah Gerber '16 from Sweden, for instance, is looking forward to spending 10 days with her Davidson host family during the winter break, between the end of her exams and her flight out for spring semester study abroad in Senegal.

"I come from a close family, so it's a great comfort to have a host family here," said Gerber. Her Davidson host family has two college-aged daughters who will be home from school while she is with them this year. Gerber is also good friends with Professor and Chair of Political Science Ken Menkhaus and his wife Karin, who is Swedish, and will be spending some holiday time with them, too.

Several other students, including students from China, India and Tajikistan, will be traveling this winter break with college friends or to visit family members in the United States, and taking advantage of host family hospitality while they are in Davidson. The college also ensures that international students have a place to stay in college-owned housing off campus, if necessary.

Carol Sandke, who coordinates the host family program for Dean Rusk, has hosted four international students of her own over the course of 10 years.

"My children were 8 and 12 when our first student arrived from India. We welcomed him into our home and our lives. We learned about his culture and his family, and the differences he shared about life in India compared to life at Davidson and in the United States," said Sandke. "He has become part of our family, as have the other three students."

Sandke visited him in India last summer, and traveled to Germany to visit her other two ‘sons' in 2013. She also keeps in touch with her Bulgarian ‘daughter.'

The host family program this year coordinated 99 area families hosting 103 international students in their adopted "homes away from home."

The writer, a 1985 Davidson alumnus who spent his own junior year abroad in France and still visits his host family there, has hosted Bulgarian, German, French and Indian students since joining the Davidson College communications staff in 2001. Resulting "international" adventures with host-program students in America have included a bounty of culinary, athletic, musical and other cultural endeavors, including Myrtle Beach road trips and Hungarian red pepper sneezing fits; mutual support during family crises at home and abroad, up to and including a heroic multi-national effort to build a rescue sling out of beach towels to get a happy old dog with weak rear legs back up safely onto a Lake Norman floating dock. There have been some 50 trips each to the airport, to the Lake Campus and to Wal-Mart.

Learn more about the Davidson College Host Family Program.