When Risa Imamura arrived in Corvallis from Tokyo to attend Oregon State University, she knew no one. But she’d arranged to participate in a three-day homestay through the Corvallis-based organization Crossroads International, which mean that when she got off the airport shuttle, her host father was waiting for her. She said immediately felt better at finding a friendly face to welcome her to the United States.
“My host family made me feel like home,” Imamura said. “They gave me a comfortable room and American homemade delicious foods.”
The transition between living in Tokyo and attending OSU as an anthropology exchange student was made easier by her host family, Imamura recalled, because they were able to introduce her to neighbors, take her to community events, and even help her with basic needs, like buying a cell phone and a pillow.
And the relationship continued after Imamura began her classes. Her host family even invited her to Thanksgiving dinner, making her feel like part of an extended family.
Crossroads International was started in Corvallis in 1969, emphasizing cross-cultural sharing and providing support for international community members living, working and studying in Corvallis. This year, Crossroads International Programs celebrates its 45th year, and this February, will bring its seventh annual film festival to the Darkside Cinema. The fundraiser brings three international films to the screen every Sunday in February, offering Corvallis residents the chance to view some extraordinary films as they support a thriving international cross-cultural program.
Current Crossroads programs include a three-day homestay for incoming OSU international students, a conversational English class for international women in the Corvallis area, and a variety of events that promote cultural sharing in the community. The organization is almost entirely volunteer-run, and has built a reputation for helping international visitors feel welcome in Corvallis.
Amir Azarbakht also found the Crossroads Home Stay program eased his transition when he arrived from Tehran, Iran to start his Ph.D in computer science at OSU.
“In August 2009, I moved to Gothenburg, Sweden, where I did my master’s degree, and having had gone through a culture shock before, I decided to use the home stay program to get to familiarize myself with the some locals and their lifestyles from day one,” Azarbakht said. “Honestly, if I had the choice between staying at a five-star hotel for free or home stay, I’d do the home stay.”
Azarbahkt was able to quickly feel grounded in his new community, thanks to the support he received from his home stay family.
“My favorite thing about home stay was the fact that I effortlessly got acquainted with two caring locals who had lived in Corvallis for 38 years, and knew so many people wherever we went,” he said. “It was a heart-warming feeling that ‘I’m not totally alone, there are people I can rely on to a certain extend, for the first couple of days until I settle in’”
1:30 p.m. – As It Is In Heaven – Swedish comedy/drama/music
4 p.m. – Chico & Rita – Spanish romance/animation/music
6:30 p.m. – English Vinglish – Hindi and English drama/comedy/music
1:30 p.m. – Teddy Bear, Danish and Thai, romance/drama
4: p.m. – English Vinglish, Hindi and English drama/comedy/music
6:30 p.m. – Hitler’s Children, German and English, documentary/history
1:30 p.m. – As It Is In Heaven, Swedish comedy/drama/music
4 p.m. – Hitler’s Children, German and English, documentary/history
6:30 p.m. – The Dish, Australian English, comedy/drama
1:30 p.m. – The Dish, Australian English, comedy/drama
4 p.m. – Teddy Bear, Danish and Thai, romance/drama
6:30 p.m. – Chico & Rita – Spanish romance/animation/music
He too attends Thanksgiving dinners with his host family, whom he refers to as ‘my family,’ and he event sent them a postcard when he recently visited Prague.
For Crossroads International Film Festival Board Co-Chair Caitlin Sullivan, becoming a host family was a natural move, because she’d lived abroad herself and knew how hard it could be to adjust to new surroundings. Over the years she’s hosted four different women from countries across the globe.
“I felt a little like a surrogate mom getting them ready for their first year of college,” she recalled, “helping them buy bedding, helping them find their dorm room or their room in a house, showing them around town, stocking up on snacks, etc. After only a few days of them staying with me, it was always hard to ‘let them go!’”
Sullivan said her own three children benefited from the chance to learn about differently cultures simply by sitting around the dinner table with new faces. And she likes the benefit that Crossroads provides the greater community.
“It is important to me that Corvallis be seen as a welcoming community to people from other countries who choose to come here. We have a fantastic group on the board and a lot of wonderful supporters and volunteers in the community,” she said.
Admission is $6 per film and discounted festival Passports are available for $30, each Passport entitles the holder to six tickets for the price of five. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-737-6310.
A post-film discussion of ‘Hitler’s Children,” will take place on Feb. 9 and Feb. 16 (see film schedule sidebar). OSU history professor and Holocaust Memorial Committee chair Paul Kopperman will discuss the issues and insights this film inspires.
~ Theresa Hogue