Inviting an international student home with you is one of the best ways to welcome them to our country and demonstrate the love of Christ. But we know bringing an international student into your family can be a little intimidating, so we asked Andy Pearce for some advice. Andy Pearce (MA Theological Studies, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary) engages with international students in the Los Angeles area. He and his wife Sandy became staff members with International Students, Inc. in 2000 and enjoy hosting internationals from many countries in their home on a regular basis. Here’s his advice:
Google their country:
Research their country online beforehand so you can ask intelligent questions. Ask them to use Google Earth to give your family a virtual tour of their city and/or country.
Get everyone’s name straight:
Internationals often address elders with formal titles. Take the initiative and tell them which title to use or that they should use first names. Write down and learn to pronounce your international friend’s name correctly, no matter how hard it may be to remember or pronounce!
Don’t let Fido be the welcome committee:
Many internationals are uneasy or even fearful around pets, especially dogs. A dog should be kept outside or in another room until you can be sure of the reaction.
Ask whether there is any food he/she cannot eat:
Hindus avoid beef and some are vegetarians. Some Hindus do not eat eggs. Muslims do not eat pork. It is a good idea to explain the food you are serving and the ingredients you use to make it.
Get them involved around the house:
To help them feel more a part of your family, ask them to help set the table, clear the table, dry dishes, or to participate in other household jobs done by family members.
Be normal about prayer:
Be sure to follow your usual routine of giving thanks to God before your meal and living out your faith as you normally do. Most internationals appreciate being prayed for.
Enunciate your words and don’t speak too quickly:
Realize that most idioms, slang, and historical or cultural references will not be understood. It is fun to ask if there is a similar idiom in their language.
Watch facial expression for indications that they do not understand:
Many will nod or say “yes” even if they don’t understand. If they do not understand, do not make the explanation more complicated or more detailed. The lack of understanding may be due to only one word.
Ask lots of questions:
Resist the temptation to talk too much or launch into a sermon. Instead, ask them many questions. Family, education, sports, culture, hobbies, interests, hometown are all great topics to ask about. It is usually not wise to ask about the politics of their country.
Avoid a “U.S. is best” attitude:
Be willing to listen objectively to their reactions to American life, government, customs, etc. Enjoy learning about their culture and opinions and suppress the urge to “correct” or inform.
Avoid using the word “missionary”:
Especially if you have missionary friends in their country.
Let them teach you the basics of their language:
Ask them to teach you and your family how to say a few words such as Hello, Thank You, or Goodbye in their language.
Don’t worry about trying to be perfect or having a perfect family:
It is beneficial to be honest and real about life’s challenges and struggles, and about your dependence on Jesus in the midst of living your life.