By RICH KEITH, Four Points News
Several Four Points families are hosting international college students over the Christmas break as part of a program which places students nationally.
Christmas International House is a Christian ministry designed to offer hospitality to international students during the Christmas Holidays when their college dorms shut down across the country.
“It gives students an opportunity to visit in an American home and to become acquainted with different areas of the country,” said Maggie Tate, a local Four Points CIH coordinator who lives in Comanche Trail.
Students sign up for cities to visit during the fall, and the program matches them with host families. There are never enough hosts, Tate said. This year’s program opened up to 10 international students in Austin. Local Four Points residents hosted 4 of the students.
Lori and Peter Hines of Steiner Ranch are hosting Chinese student Shu Liu or “Louisa,” an English language & literature student at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana.
River Place residents Jan Niraja Srinvasan’s family is hosting Yen Ming Teo or “Ming,” who comes from Malaysia and is studying environmental engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. During the second week the whole family group is going skiing.
Some students are “shared” over the 2-week period, with host families taking one week or the other.
Carol and Rich Keith hosted Malaysian student Ke Li Yew or “Callie Sophia” for the first week, then Steiner Ranch neighbors Elisa and Kurt Pederson hosted after Christmas. Callie is studying biochemistry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Moet Ota from Japan is studying accounting at the University of Central Arkansas and lived with program co-director Maggie Tate’s family in Comanche Trail, before transferring to co-director Kathi Thomas’ family home in Austin following Christmas.
During the first week there were plenty of planned activities for the international students including a party at Jack Mountain Longhorn Ranch in Dripping Springs featuring square dancing to a live caller, a barbecue and a hayride. Also the students were treated to a VIP state Capitol tour, a Bob Bullock Museum tour and a charity activity making food for Austin’s homeless and disadvantaged.
A local club taught the students and then called the dances. International student Ke Li Yew got to meet Milton Vaverek, 80, who’s square danced since World War II. “C’mon,” urges Vaverek, “You’re here to dance, right?”
“I love seeing the international students’ reaction to seeing Texas Longhorn cattle up close for the first time,” said Julia Tate, a Vandegrift High School freshman student.
“If I could tell my countrymen about the US, I’d tell them that American people I have met here are very welcoming and kind,” said Japanese student Ota.
“I wanted to study in the USA because I love literature, history and geography and hope to learn more about and in other countries, said Chinese student Shu Liu. “Most people here are more friendly than I thought. Students are more creative and open-minded to do what they want,” she said.
During the second week the students will visit the Alamo, tour San Antonio’s Riverwalk, ride horses and make a food dish for the international potluck dinner among other activities.
“I came to the US for education because I fell in love with the education system here and would love to challenge myself,” said Malaysian student Ke Li Yew, adding “The US is very customer service oriented.”
“People here would attend to your needs whether it’s on the street while you got lost, or ordering in restaurants or even going into a convenience store. They are extremely nice people with A+ service. I really hope the citizens in my home country could adopt such service,” Yew said.