International Spotlight

International Hospitality Committee celebrates 60 years

Ilesha Malhotra
11/12/2012  8:00 am

A local group dedicated to helping international students, faculty, staff and their families adjust and integrate into life in the Champaign-Urbana community celebrated its 60th anniversary in October.

The International Hospitality Committee was founded in 1952 as a volunteer organization to assist international visitors during their time at Illinois. Over the years, IHC’s programs have helped to enrich the experiences of both the people CU residents and international visitors. In 2011, IHC was awarded the Champaign-Urbana International Humanitarian Award for its hospitality efforts.

IHC works closely with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), part of the Office of International Programs and Studies, as well as other university and community groups. They have pioneered many programs to make visitors feel welcome and help them adjust to their new environment.

Our office is so happy to know of the personal connections our students, scholars, their spouses and families can make with local families and individuals through the programs offered by IHC.  These opportunities can really enhance someone’s overall experience at the University of Illinois,” said Erin Schiller, ISSS assistant director.

IHC volunteers conduct weekly English conversation classes where people can meet to practice English in an informal setting. They also organize Friendship Groups where local residents and international visitors meet regularly and plan various social activities and learn about different cultures. The Friendship Groups and International Friends Programs provide support to international visitors and also allow local hosts to broaden their outlook by learning about diverse cultures and experiences. IHC also runs a lending storeroom in Orchard Downs from where international visitors can borrow household articles while their stay here.

According to Schiller, IHC is successful in providing valuable services beyond the ISSS’s mandated programs. The ISSS encourages international students to take advantage of these resources, and makes information about these programs available to international students at the International Student Check-In conducted at the beginning of the academic year. ISSS advisors often recommend these programs to students and faculty members as well.

Mary Kruse, president of the IHC, was honored for 25 years of service to the International Hospitality Committee at the anniversary reception October 14. Kruse came to IHC as a host for international students and has been conducting English conversation classes since 1987. “Being involved with the IHC has been an extremely rewarding experience for me. It has helped me come in contact with international students who add so much to our community and it has given me the chance to travel around the world and reconnect with students” said Kruse.

Going forward, the International Hospitality Committee hopes to expand itself in the community. “We hope that in the future, IHC will attract and inspire a new generation of members and volunteers.  As long as the University of Illinois welcomes international students and faculty to campus, there will be a need for the types of programs and services offered through IHC.  Not only do the students and scholars benefit from these programs but so, too, do the volunteers from the Champaign-Urbana community,” said Schiller.

For anyone interested in being Hosts/Friends for international visitors to the University, contact Nancy McGlathery at nmcglath@gmail.com.