Reaching out to students from afar


While overall enrollment at Bowling Green State University may be slightly down, the number of
international students attending has increased by four percent.
"We continue to grow a few percentage points a year," said Paul Hofmann, director of the Center
for International Programs. During the center’s recent International Friendship Program dinner, held in
the basement of First Presbyterian Church, he announced there are 731 international students enrolled at
BGSU, plus 76 in its intensive English program. (Photo: Jim Brown, left, with host student Andreas
Xenopoulos, from Greece and a piano performance major at BGSU. The two, along with others, were
attending annual dinner of the International Friendship Program where international BGSU students meet
their American friendship families. 10/25/09 (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune))
"For the first time we have more than 800 students on campus," Hofmann said.
But with a record number of international students come several needs. More area families, whether
individuals, couples or those with children, are needed to participate in the International Friendship
Program. Hofmann wants every international student who would like to be paired up with an American
family to have that wish fulfilled.
"It would be wonderful if we could expand the program to include more students. It’s a wonderful
program," he said.
Secondly, Hofmann noted there needs to be a greater advocacy for international students. "A program
like this is vital to that," he said.
Thirdly, he announced the center would be starting a capital campaign for international student
scholarships. More information about that will be given at the major international dinner on campus in
Betty Laukhuf, with 35 years in the program, introduced the center’s first graduate assistant, Yuchun
Zhou, who made certificates of appreciation for the participating families.
About 25 families attended the dinner with the international student or students with whom they were
matched. Most of the countries represented included China, Vietnam, Japan, Greece, India, South Korea,
Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Nepal.
Ian Young has a special reason to be in the program, along with his wife, Kim. "I’m an alumnus of
this International Friendship Program," the New Zealand native announced. He came to BGSU in 1993,
stayed long enough to earn his Ph.D. and now teaches there. As a student, though, he was matched up with
Bob Beard, who is still in the program.
"Bob was my host father," said Young. "Now we’ve had several international students over
the years," and mentioned they came from China and Ghana.
Bowling Green High School’s retired music director Jim Brown introduced his student from Greece, Andreas,
who is studying piano performance.
Brenda and Jay Kirkbride explained they go to Florida for part of the year, so they will share their
student, Grace from Korea, with Lynn Long.
Several families mentioned they are new to the program when they introduced their student. Melissa
Shaffer, and her son, Rob, met Francis from Kenya for the first time at the dinner. "My son is in
musical theater," she quipped, "so we were matched with a film maker who may find a spot to
put my son."
Also new are Ted and Becky Bhaer. "Betty Laukuf told me about it," Becky Bhaer said after the
meal. "It’s something I thought would be a neat thing to do." Now that she has officially
retired she can spend time with their student from Turkmenistan. Bhaer said she expects to get more out
of the program than what she gives to it.
Widow Norma Davenport is in the program for the first time and was matched with two students form China.
"I just felt I had some room in my life, besides my knitting, to give back," she said
afterwards. And since Davenport recently lost her mother, she added, "I think these two girls came
into my life at a good time."
During the public introduction time, she said, "It’s delightful to have our own little United
Nations with over 700 students. Whenever we can further peace, let it be."

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