A program that matches international students with American hosts for dinner would like some help.
Breaking Bread provides students from overseas the opportunity to experience an evening in an American home with food, company and conversation. More than 220 students signed up for the program last school year, but only 69 families participated.
“Breaking Bread is always recruiting for hosts as it’s one of the most popular programs with our international population,” says Lauren Ball, assistant director for programs in the Office of International Services.
Hosts fill out an application detailing their background, interests, the number of students they are willing to have over and whether they are comfortable cooking for people with dietary restrictions. OIS matches them to students, then both parties coordinate a day and time to meet. Hosts usually pick up their guests and drop them off at the end of the night.
The program is a valuable experience for students, says Tahira Pirzada, a postdoctoral researcher who came to NC State in 2016 from Pakistan. She said the family she dined with in March provided real Southern hospitality, down to serving baked beans and biscuits with dinner. They took into account her dietary restrictions and those of two Indian students who accompanied her, providing a vegetarian dish and pork-free food.
After the initial awkwardness of meeting strangers, Pirzada says she soon felt at ease with her hosts and was especially impressed by their two daughters.
“Both of these girls are swimming champions and they started swimming at a very young age,” she says. “That was a new thing for me. Now I keep telling my nieces, ‘You can go for anything.’”
Kevin Feeney, who works in the Study Abroad Office, has hosted about a dozen students the past three years along with his wife, Sarah Ho, assistant director in the Park Scholarships program. Their guests have come from countries including China, France and India, and Feeney and Ho enjoy learning about the different cultures and getting new perspectives on the United States.
“I think one of the stereotypes a lot of students have about the U.S. is it can be difficult for them to really get to know Americans,” Feeney says. He and Ho welcome discussion on all topics, including politics and religion, both to broaden their own knowledge and help guests learn about American points of view.
“We try to talk about how different and diverse America is, just like a lot of other countries,” he says. “It’s not everything you see in Hollywood and in the movies.”
Feeney encourages more staff and faculty to sign up to host students.
“Hosting for the Breaking Bread program is something you will not regret,” he says. “We have never met more grateful individuals, and sharing with them a little bit about you, your family and life provides a special opportunity to connect on so many levels.”
Pirzada says she sees no downside to participating in Breaking Bread, for hosts or guests. The program is safe and informative, she says.
“You will get to know a new culture. You will get to know people from a new country,” she says. “You know people more, and they know about you instead of relying on media.”
Ball says hosts aren’t required to know another language or be cultural experts. All they need are an open mind and a willingness to learn about people and places.
“It’s an ideal way to welcome new people to the Wolfpack,” she says.
This post was originally published in NC State News.