Wabash College

Host program connects students, community

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The Wabash College’s Community Friends Host Program will resume after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Last year, there were almost no opportunities for international students to get involved with Crawfordsville residents. However, an event to match host families with international students will take place next month.

The aim of the program is to help the international students adjust to the new environment which is different from each of their countries. Although students spend much of their time on campus, through a host family they can be exposed to American culture and community customs.

The program originated in 1986 when Judy Schmidt, Community Friends volunteer director, had a 22-pound turkey for Thanksgiving Day. It was too much for her and her husband Lyle Schmidt to eat. Their children were away at school in Chicago.

She decided to invite an international student from Wabash College to their holiday meal. Unlike other people in the community and on campus, the Schmidts had previously been involved with international students at Indiana State University in Terre Haute.

Lyle said to Judy, “They (international students) never have any place to go on the holidays unless some of the faculty take pity on them.”

The next day, Judy went to the library and found a Chinese student. The student happily accepted her invitation and celebrated Thanksgiving Day at their home. The student was surprised by the meal and said, “I knew you had a turkey, but I did not know you had all this other food too.”

The Schmidts continued taking care of him. The took him to various places to immerse him into life in the U.S.

Many Wabash faculty and staff appreciated what the Schmidts had done for the student, including Lewis Salter, the 12th president at Wabash College. With the college increasing its number of international students, Salter asked the Schmidts to continue their volunteer activities. Although the college did not have enough resources and support to officially launch the program like other larger institutions, Judy accepted the challenge because she wanted to get to know more international students from various countries.

Since then, the number of host families and international students have increased and the interaction between them has become more active.

“Many host families have an enjoyable time with the students,” said Sheila Evans, a former college nurse and host family member.

Some of the relationships continue even after the students graduate from the college.

Judy still receives a phone call on Mother’s Day from the first Chinese student.

“The program has been so good for Crawfordsville because there has not been all that much interaction between the college and the community other than sports and some of the programs at the college,” she said. “It has been such an enriching experience for both community friends and the students because so many of them have stayed in contact.”

Amy Weir, Director of International Programs, is looking forward to connecting the international students and the potential host families.

“I am really hoping that several previous host families will attend the event,” she said. “But, I am also hoping that we can get some interest from new families who may be in the situation now where they could consider joining the program.”

For more information, contact Eileen Bowen, Community Friends Program coordinator, by email bowene@wabash.edu or by phoning 765-267-2010; Amy Weir, Director of International Programs, by email weira@wabash.edu or by calling 765-361-6078; or Linda Weaver, International Programs Assistant, by email weaverl@wabash.edu or by calling 765-361-6365.

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