Imagine making the first steps into your future, in a new country, a new place, a new beginning. Everything is different from home. You realize that you aren’t at home anymore and that nothing seems familiar.
This is the feeling that many international students have when they arrive at West Virginia University, some with just a suitcase, others with their entire family.
But, many international students arrive without basic home necessities.
This is where WVU’s International HomeStart Closet steps in and helps. The Closet greets all new International students to WVU with welcoming gifts on behalf of the University and the people of Morgantown. Those who need sleeping arrangements or food receive high priority.
“As an international student, coming into a different place where you don’t know anyone is a daunting task,” said Kombe Kapatamoyo, a political science major from Zambia. “A program like the HomeStart Closet goes a long way to relieve most of one’s nerves.
“The program helps with the basic essentials to start a life here. It’s also an opportunity to meet new folks. It’s unlike any other program I have heard of at any school in the U.S. where the university and the community come together to help its international student body.”
The International HomeStart Closet was established by the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, in cooperation with the Office of International Students and Scholars in summer 2006 and was fully operational the following year.
“I see the closet as being not only a help, but a comfort to incoming international students. When I first arrived, I came with only three pieces of luggage full of clothes and books,” said Claire Ambang, a former WVU student from Cameroon. “With no easy access mode of transportation, my mother and I had a hard time moving all over town trying to figure out which stores carried what, and for a little while I lacked the basics. I’m truly comforted by the idea that the closet delivers the things students need.”
Jennifer McIntosh, special assistant to the chief of staff at WVU, developed the program to help international students feel comfortable in Morgantown and at the University.
“People don’t realize how important having a bed is,” she said. “We have seen students sleeping on the floor, on newspapers. Mattresses are something we always desperately need.
“When the international students arrive, we want them to feel at home. We tell them thank you for coming, and welcome to WVU. That’s what the closet helps us do.”
Basic household necessities are often available to international students including sheets, towels, blankets, pillows, dishes, flatware, glasses, mugs, kettles, pots, pans, skillets, microwaves, coffee makers and rice cookers. Large furniture items are occasionally available.
Donations are accepted based on items, available transportation and storage space.
CONTACT: University Relations/News
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