International Friendship Program

f you live in the Bay Area, you can extend the hand of friendship to an international student through the International Friendship Program. Host families and individuals offer visits to local attractions, a holiday meal, or a friendly connection to a visitor far from home. Coordinated by the I-House Program Office, the International Friendship Program serves all international students and scholars on the Cal campus. For more information, call the Program Office at (510) 642-9460 or e-mail ihprogra@uclink.



Host Family Celebrates a Decade of Caring

Judy Kennedy of Berkeley, California, remembers sharing Thanksgiving dinners as a child with residents of International House. Through contact with the UC Berkeley Faculty Wives Foreign Student Committee, Judy's parents invited international students to their home to share holidays and activities to help acclimate these students to their new surroundings. At the same time, they introduced their children to the rich cultural heritage of people around the world. These experiences inspired Judy and her husband, Jeff, to contact International House and join the International Friendship Program. Ten years later, the Kennedys and thei r two sons celebrate friendships with twenty of their "kids" around the world.

The Kennedys with four of the twenty international students they have hosted in the past decade. From left Maurizio Nadai from Padova, Italy; Ariane Zambiras from Pau, France; Yanhong Jin from Peoples Republic of China; Judy Kennedy; Vivien Petras from Forst, Germany; and Jeff Kennedy.

The Kennedys link the international students they have hosted over the years as "brothers and sisters" and together this diverse group shares in wonderful life changes including weddings and births. They also helped each other through illnesses and loss. "We've just returned from a summer trip to Europe where we visited five of our kids and several of their families. We hiked with Maurizio Nadia and his fiancée in the Italian Alps. Bernhard Haacker biked and went to museums with us in Amsterdam. We also visited Coline Perrin in Nice, France, and stayed with Vivien Petras in Germany."

These recent adventures hint at the close relationships the Kennedys have fostered through their host family participation. "I was honored when Yanhong Jin, our 'daughter' from China, invited me to participate in her Buddhist wedding ceremony, and thrilled when I was asked to attend her ultrasound exam where I learned I was expecting a grandson! Now I'm a proud first-time grandma to little Joshua who was born in July, 2003."

Says Yanhong, "Judy, Jeff and their children are truly family to me and my husband, even to my parents. It is still amazing to me that my parents who did not speak any English happily and comfortably talked with Kennedys every time they met. After little Joshua was born, he was immersed in love and care from Gramma Judy and Grandpa Jeff, and enjoyed lots of greetings from uncles and aunties from many countries. My German 'sister' Vivien is a terrific Auntie to him. I feel so lucky that I-House introduced me to this whole new family and my son will continue to enjoy these relations for years to come."

Jeff Kennedy (right) introduces Vivien Petras and Coline Perrin, to the fine art of pumpkin carving in preparation for Halloween.

The Kennedys also stay in touch with Comfort Wentum from Ghana and Kati Martikeinen from Finland. Every month they exchange e-mail messages with many of the I-House residents they've welcomed into their extended family. "As teachers, we've always valued learning and have enjoyed discovering other cultures. We've been lucky enough to spend our summers for sixteen years now in a small Italian village. We feel so lucky to have received incredible hospitality all over the world - this is a way we can give back," says Judy.

Jeff feels the same way. After serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, he traveled for ten months through Africa and Asia. "This is my opportunity to pay forward the hospitality that I received on that trip."

The students they've hosted and the families of the students seem equally grateful. One Italian student's mother insisted that Judy accept a necklace that was a family heirloom as a token of their thanks for all she did for her son. "It's been an incredible experience," says Jeff, "becoming a host family has enriched our whole family in many ways." This fall the Kennedys will welcome yet another I-House resident to join them for meals, outings, and friendship. It seems certain this will be a lucky student indeed.

If you live in the Bay Area, you can extend the hand of friendship to an international student far from home by offering visits to local attractions, a holiday meal, or a friendly connection. For more information, call the Program Office at (510) 642-9460 or e-mail

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