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Program promotes cultural exchange

Dutch Cdt. Ard Tielenburg, Dutch Cdt. Thijs Urlings, Dutch Lt. Lennart Batenburg, and Dutch Cdt. Martin Lammerts socialize during the IMSO welcome social Jan. 16 at The Landing’s Legends Room. (Photo by Sara E. Martin)

Dutch Cdt. Ard Tielenburg, Dutch Cdt. Thijs Urlings, Dutch Lt. Lennart Batenburg, and Dutch Cdt. Martin Lammerts socialize during the IMSO welcome social Jan. 16 at The Landing’s Legends Room. (Photo by Sara E. Martin)

Published: January 23, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (January 23, 2014) -- For those seeking to expand their knowledge of the world, the International Military Student Office offers people an opportunity to experience different cultures without leaving the United States or even the Wiregrass by sponsoring an international student.

The International Student Sponsorship Program is an opportunity to bridge the gap between the known and the unknown for international students and their spouses, and is a chance for locals to expand their knowledge and understanding of a different culture, according to Eduardo Pineiro, IMSO field studies program coordinator.

“It is traditional to sponsor newcomers by extending hospitality and assistance, and this program is a great way for international students to see the United States, and meet local people and their Families. It is also a fun way to learn about the real United States, and not necessarily what Hollywood and the media portrays in films, TV shows, newspapers and magazines,” he said.

Sponsors introduce the student or spouse to American culture outside of Fort Rucker and helps them get acquainted with American customs, as well as helping them navigate around the culture.

“There is no maximum or minimum commitment and there is no financial responsibility on the sponsor. They can pay for things as a friendly gesture if they like, but it is not necessary,” he said.

The intent of the program is to provide international military students and spouses with a direct view of life in the U.S. through social interaction.

“It is up to the sponsor and the student what they do, how often they get together and where they would like to go. Social sponsors do lots of things like eat dinner at each others’ houses, go to the movies, go sightseeing, go putt-putt or bowling, go to local high school or college sport events together, go shopping together, or go on trips to the beach or Atlanta together. It is whatever they agree on and where their interests lie,” said Pineiro.

Sponsors can support as many students as they like, but IMSO officials try to pair them up or link them up with Families who like the same activities, said Pineiro.

A sponsor is also an ambassador that provides the best image of the U.S., according to Pineiro, but it is also where both parties equally learn from each other about their home countries.

“When students or spouses have a sponsor, they know a lot more about American life,” he said. “A sponsor is a direct link for them, so the students usually have great things to say about American life when they return home. When they have a positive experience it reflects positively on the United States.

“No matter what the students read or watch in the news, the most impact that the students are going to receive is going to be from the Americans that interacted with them,” he continued.

Likewise, according to Pineiro, the sponsored student’s country becomes not just a name in the evening news or on a map, but a warm place in the sponsor’s heart.

“Sponsors learn about their students’ cultures as well. They learn about the food, language, people, religion and the day-to-day life of someone who is not from America,” said Pineiro.

Sponsors can also help expand the English skills of the student by daily or weekly conversation, said Pineiro, and that contact and language-learning skills that a sponsor inadvertently teaches is priceless.

“They want to better their English, and go outside and see new places, too. Sponsors help in a way that a teacher can’t when helping a person learn English,” he said.

Anyone is allowed to be a sponsor, whether they are in flight school, a civilian or a military spouse –there are no restrictions.

“Everyone can be an ambassador for the United States,” said Pineiro.

If interested in becoming a sponsor, call 255-2391.

This article was originally published at

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