The IFC Guidelines cover definitions of "family" to an international student and the terms and conditions of being a friendship family. We'll also cover suggested activities for families and students.
Becoming a “friend” to an international student is an opportunity for local families and individuals to learn and share history and culture. It means discovering differences and similarities in values and beliefs, hopes and ambitions. It is an opportunity to revive a family’s own experiences in Kenosha, Racine and Wisconsin and rediscover the value of things often taken for granted. Finally, through the International Friendship group, families, individuals & students can perhaps contribute in a small way to global understanding. Most Friendship members are from the Adventures of Lifelong Learning- (ALL) an organization of active retired citizens.
Unfortunately, the lack of U.S. friends emerges as one of the most critical complaints voiced by international students. Making close friends across cultures can be a challenge. As one noted researcher explains, contact per se does not result in positive attitudes. What is necessary is intimate rather than casual contact. (Hull, 1978).
In intercultural friendships or cross-cultural encounters not only do the parties have a collision and intertwining of cultural differences, but there may be a discrepancy in the definition of friendship itself. Over the last few years, families and students have asked for guidance in cultivating and navigating through their intercultural friendships.
Family: US family - Traditional/Non-traditional families.
In American traditional terms, a family refers to a father a mother and their children or a nuclear family. The family is a small group of people not an extended family. Grand-parents, aunts, cousins are considered the “relatives.” More recently, due to changes in American society, a traditional male-dominated family is less evident. There are more households where both parents work and where fathers take care of children & household responsibilities. There are more single parent families where only one parent and teenagers often work outside the home. It’s also common to find couples who are not married, married women having children and ‘blended families” or a man, woman, and both children from previous marriages. (American Ways, by Gary Althen).
Family: Non-US family. In some countries, in addition to a nuclear family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and others are also labeled “family”.
Friendship - US: A friend is used “to describe a variety of relationships ranging from short-term superficial ones to long-standing ones to which the persons involved are deeply committed (Matthews, 1986, p. 11). Casual friends or acquaintances are bonded together by sociability and close friends are more intimate and closed to the outside world. Friendship in the U.S. is not formalized, it is voluntaristic, there are no friendship rituals or ceremonies and obligations are ambiguous and merely implied (Bell, 1981, p.12). Also, friendship in the U.S. tends to be more based on different areas of life that are clearly separated and relationships are based on interests.Guidelines Continued...