Make more friends in Europe


"Opportunities should be conveyed for citizens from different countries to visit families in other countries", suggests one group that discussed the series of questions and ideas that will, at the end of the project, lead to the formulation of a My!Europe/Sonnenberg Declaration on a more democratic Europe.

The discussion took place at the My!Europe conference, organised by the Sonnenberg Association of Great Britain, in Canterbury earlier this month.

"Encourage people to have a visitor for a meal and if possible show them interesting aspects of their town or village. Sonnenberg should promote this, encouraging people to talk together, understand one another and overcome prejudice".

As a model framework for this, the group points at the American Host Program. This program is found e.g. at the University of Delaware/English Language School. It is not a "homestay" thing; instead it's about meeting people over a meal or for an outing, or maybe a family event.

The following is a summary of some of the points made on the Delaware "Frequently asked questions" page:

Hosts are people who have volunteered to spend time with people from other countries, inviting them for dinner, or "for an activity that they are involved in such as church or family gatherings, or a visit to an interesting place".

No fees are involved.

"What if my English is not so good?" Answer: "Remember you are here to learn and practice English speaking skills. Most hosts are very patient and kind and will make the effort to understand you and be sure that you understand them. The important thing to remember is don’t be shy".

"How often?"  "At least 2 times during each session. Some hosts offer more; others stick to the requirement".

"What will the host expect of me?" "The most important thing that you can do as a participant is to communicate".

"Who should initiate the contact?" "You should. Many international students feel like “guests” here, and may feel it too “forward” to call you".

"What should we do together?" "Enjoy time together. Have a meal, BBQ, or potluck [a gathering where each guest contributes a dish of food, often homemade, to be shared]. You might look at photos or slides together, go to a concert, drive out to the countryside, or simply go for a walk (most international students are used to walking) and look around your neighborhood".

"What about praying before the meal?" Feel free to practice whatever family customs you have about prayer or reading a Scripture portion before or after the meal, explaining to the students that this is your custom. Say something simple such as, “It’s our family custom to give thanks to God for the meal as we begin.” Just be yourself. As you do this with tact and love, they’ll respect your convictions, and it may lead to a good conversation.

More here.

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