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Released August 19, 2003


By David Tisdale

HATTIESBURG - Nathalie Howard knows how it feels to be in a foreign country, adjusting to a new culture and unfamiliar surroundings. But The University of Southern Mississippi student majoring in French was paired with a host family while she was in France as an exchange student, which made the initial adjustment easier.

Now Howard and other Hattiesburg area families are lending the same support to exchange students attending Southern Miss.

For the fourth year, the Center for International and Continuing Education is sponsoring the fourth annual International Hospitality Program, a venture pairing new international exchange students with Hattiesburg families for their first few days in the United States. The chance to stay in a local home for a few days offers students a more pleasant and personal introduction to American life, enables them to broaden their range of social contacts and helps alleviate initial feelings of culture shock and homesickness.

"It can be an uncomfortable situation, arriving in a new country," Howard said.

Now, like the host family that made her transition easier while she stayed in Paris, Howard is helping visiting students with translation, transportation and familiarization with the Hattiesburg area. "I just wanted to return the favor."

The program also provides an opportunity for hosts to discover more about other cultures - and hopefully make new friends in the process. International exchange students have always described their Southern Miss experience as being very positive, noting the warmth and friendliness of the people, said Holly Buckner, coordinator of international programs at Southern Miss.

"We try to get the students paired with a family to help them become familiar with the community by staying with them the first few days they are here," Buckner said. "Typically they maintain relations throughout the time the student is in school."

Thirteen exchange students currently attending Southern Miss come from Germany, France, England, Wales and Australia. Seven families are sharing their homes with the students for the first few days of their stay in Hattiesburg.

Lisa Amram, an exchange student from France, said it's nice to have someone to call on like family when she needs assistance. "It's reassuring," she said. "It's a good start to being here, and I'm enjoying my stay thanks to them (host family)," she said.

For more information about the International Hospitality Program, call (601) 266-4361


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM