International students are being given a unique insight into the Aussie way of life thanks a program from the University of Queensland, home of the country’s top MBA.
University of Queensland’s Family Mates program participant Rodney Weatherhead says it is as easy as extending an extra invitation to social events such as backyard cricket, family barbecues, sightseeing trip or sports games.
“We are often amazed at how much the supposedly ordinary things seem so interesting to our international friends,” the Indooroopilly dad said.
“Sometimes we go bushwalking, other times we play board games, table tennis or bake some biscuits.
“One student came to dinner and took photos of the dinner – a tuna pasta bake – as if it was something wonderful, and we realised what a privilege it is to share our ordinary lives with people from another culture.
“It’s no extra effort for your family. It’s as simple as inviting an international student to join in with something you’re already doing,” he said.
Opening your social life to a stranger may be simple, but it makes a world of difference to visiting students.
Mr Weatherhead and his wife, Shari, and 15-month-old daughter Bronte have hosted students from Bangladesh and Hong Kong.
Mr Weatherhead said the program gave Brisbane families and individuals a chance to gain insights into another culture.
UQ Student Services Engagement Officer Andrea Harborne said Family Mates program was extremely popular with students, but there was a serious lack of local families to meet demand.
“Sadly for many students, they may study many years in Australia, but never set foot in an ‘Aussie’ home or experience a real ‘Aussie’ barbecue,” she said.
“At this stage we have only seven families for the 150 or so students we have signed up eager to experience the Aussie way of life,” Mrs Harborne said.
“International students have usually left their own families and loved ones behind to study in Australia.
“It’s a massive move for them and it can be lonely, so we want to help them integrate into the local community as much as possible.
“Friendship with a local family can provide them with rewarding experiences of Brisbane and our culture, which ultimately enriches their experience of university, and of their time in Australia,” she said.
The Family Mates program has been running at UQ since 2011. Students and local families or individuals are matched based on criteria such as interests, availability and location. It is free to join and it is up to the families and students to decide how little or often they meet.