During the summer of 2006, I received an email about the Friendship Family Program at the University of Arkansas. Within the email were statistics about the percentage of international students who come to the U.S. for their programs of study, live here for an average of 2-3 years, and return to their homelands without ever having set foot in an American home.
Birds of a feather definitely flock together, and in a university setting, it is only natural that students would seek out companions who share their language and customs.
The Friendship Family Program seeks to broaden these students' experience in America by allowing them to experience life as Americans experience it ~ in the setting of a family that they get together with on a casual basis once or twice a month.
Intrigued, I signed up, requesting a female student from India. One of my best friends from my undergraduate days in Louisiana was a guy from Madras, and I fell in love with the people, the culture, and the food of India. This would be a great experience for the kids, I thought.
Within days, I received an email with the name of our student, Shruti, and given her contact information.
Unfortunately, within a few days my mother became ill, entered a hospital in Little Rock, and passed away. Contacting Shruti was the farthest thing from my mind.
When I returned to Fayetteville after the funeral and life settled down a little, I sent her an email and explained my situation. At that point in my life, I wasn't feeling particularly hospitable or friendly and seriously considered contacting the international students office to let them know I wouldn't be participating in the program at that time. Perhaps they could find a more suitable family for Shruti. A family that wasn't reeling from the sudden loss of a mother and grandmother.
Something told me I shouldn't do that, and am I ever glad I made the choice to email her a few days later.
We were all smitten with this delightful girl (I can call her that since I'm old enough to be her mother!) from the start. She has captured our hearts, and we've enjoyed some special times over the past year and a half. Shruti has awakened in my kids an awareness of other peoples and cultures and a desire to see and experience the world outside of Northwest Arkansas.
She was awarded her MBA today from the Sam M. Walton College of Business and will be leaving us in just 11 short days for a new life in Boston.
Shruti, we're so very proud of you and your hard work. We hate to see you go, but we know God has a great job waiting for you up in Boston. Stay in touch!