Friendship and family

By By Natalie Hale and By Natalie Hale

By Natalie Hale

Sachiko Okamoto, a junior from Japan studying at the U’s English Language Institute, was worried about meeting her new American family.

But as soon as she met Joan and Louis Taylor, the parents of her American host family, she said she felt at ease.

Okamoto and the Taylors-who have hosted international students for the past four years-matched up through the U’s Friendship Family Program-a 30-year-old program that pairs foreign exchange students with local families.

“We think it’s a good program; it really gives the students the opportunity to see what an American home is like,” Joan Taylor said.

The Taylors and Okamoto were guests at Tuesday night’s Friendship Family Social, designed to bring together 90 international students and their American host families.

While sitting around a table in the Union lobby bustling with excited tones of introductions, the Taylors and Okamoto discussed the places she had already visited around the Salt Lake Valley and where they thought she should go next.

Since Okamoto’s arrival in Utah two months ago, she has been rapidly learning the English language and absorbing American culture.

“I am so excited to meet the Taylors,” Okamoto said about meeting her American host family. “I still get nervous to talk to native English speakers, but I am getting better. I think this will help.”

Anjali Hammond, coordinator of the international program at the U, said this program was created to help international students like Okamoto take part in American family life.

Host families are encouraged to interact with their international student at least once a month in a cultural activity, such as a family dinner.

Students and families at the event enjoyed appetizers and a dance performance by Drugaya Forma, a local salsa dance troop.

If students or families are interested in participating in the Friendship Family Program, they can obtain more information at the International Center’s Web site at

Melinda Hom-Williams

Mark and Kathryn Fagergren talk to international students Sunghok Hwang and his wife Dongsuk Nam for the first time. The four talked about Utah, school and hobbies during the international student meet and greet in the Union lobby Tuesday evening.