International students love weekend with Aussie families (Issue 12, 2012)
The annual international weekend homestay program was on again from 18 to 20 May, and local families gave a rousing welcome to our twenty lucky participants who study on the Melbourne campus. This year, the students hailed from China, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, France and United Arab Emirates.
They represented a wide diversity of students, ranging from late teens to early 40s, studying at the Bachelor, Master and Doctorate levels, and working on degrees ranging from genetics, nursing, finance, microbiology, accounting and public health.
A change of pace to the slower and more friendly Bendigo region is an experience these students feel incredibly grateful for and they were delighted to meet their kind-hearted host families on Friday night for their two special nights in a warm and welcoming local home.
Following a hearty international feast at La Trobe’s Ironbark Centre on Friday night, in which welcome and thank you gifts were presented to all participants, host families were free to include their students in any typical family experience for all day Saturday and Sunday morning. Some students ended up strolling around the historic port of Echuca and helping out on farms on Saturday.
The day culminated for at least half the group with a bonfire/BBQ in the backyard of one of the families living in a small rural town near Bendigo. Others enjoyed an evening at the Capital Theatre and the remainder relaxed at home for a quiet family dinner over stimulating conversations about cultural differences between home countries and Australia.
Sunday morning was filled with sightseeing trips around Bendigo city itself and for many, a climb up the look-out tower in Rosalind Park for a full appreciation of the size of the city. The students were struck by the modernity of a regional Aussie city and at the same time, the vast expanse of farm lands and forests between the state’s capital and Bendigo.
Seven students were lucky enough to stay with families as far away as Elmore and Rochester so they were able to compare the atmosphere of metropolitan, regional and rural environments.
This weekend break program offers a fabulous opportunity for local families to learn about cultures from all over the globe and as one of our regular host mothers exclaimed at the welcome ceremony, ‘We have never had the chance to travel abroad but thanks to this program, the world comes to us every year.’
Indeed, many of our host parents keep in touch with their delightful international students and have even invited them back for later visits and in one case, the host parents were invited to the Melbourne wedding of one of their former Chinese visitors.