TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — Purdue University’s Host-a-Boiler program gives international students a chance to meet local families and celebrate the holidays with them.
Pat and Steve Wilder have hosted international students at their home on and off for the past 15 years. Pam said the experience has gone beyond her expectations and so did their two foreign exchange student guests this year.
Purdue students Adieya Ahire is from India and Ben Cheung is from China.
The world can be a lonely place – especially when you’re thousands of miles from home – but at the Wilder’s house you’re family. That means you talk openly, constantly ask and answer questions, and help out when needed.
“When we get through, everybody is going to have a job,” said Pat referring to cleaning up after Thanksgiving dinner.
Both the students and the hosts benefit from the program.
“I’m getting experience in cooking, as well. She’s teaching me some stuff, and it’s an amazing experience,” Ahire said.
Cheung added, “I get the chance to taste a Thanksgiving [meal].”
Cheung knew very little about Thanksgiving. He joked about it just being a day where Americans say thank you a lot.
“You stop saying thank you after that day,” he chuckled.
He said this experience showed him what the holidays are all about.
“I’ve learned how to live the American life,” said Cheung.
He thinks it’s a shame many international students just stick with people from their same country. He joined the Host-a-Boiler program to break that trend.
“That’s the main purpose of studying overseas,” said Cheung. “It would be such a waste if you just stay with them and speak your own language.”
Pat Wilder is glad she didn’t waste this opportunity too.
“I am picking their brains as much as they’re picking my brains,” Pat Wilder said.
The program asks families to host Thanksgiving and Christmas – but you don’t have to stop there. The Wilder’s like to continue the relationship for life, like the one they made with an exchange student from Africa.
“We were at his wedding and walked him down the aisle, and we’re going to be, I guess, honorary grandparents in April or May,” said Pat Wilder.
Although they’ve only known their 2016 Thanksgiving guests for a couple of weeks now, it looks like this friendship is going to last far past the holidays.
“It feels like home here,” said Ahire.
Cheung said, “I’m sure if they come to Hong Kong sometime, they can have some fun with me as well.”
The family plans to take the two young men to Chicago and Turkey Run sometime before the school year ends.
If you’re interested in participating in the Host-a-Boiler program, click here for more information.