Easing the Transition for Freshmen
Newcomers Find Support in Host Family Program
When Patricia Wright '83 was a freshman, she spent her Christmas vacation away from her hometown of Portsmouth. Virginia, undergoing an operation in a Boston hospital. Her own family could not be there, but Wright had a Harvard-supplied "host mother" who visited her in the hospital daily and provided a home where Wright could recuperate for a month.
Few freshmen needs such diligent attention their first year away. But in smaller ways, the freshmen host family program has helped hundreds of students who come from distant or radically different environments to adjust to life in Cambridge.
"It's good to have a mother and father figure to talk to and consult with," says Andres Fajardo '86, a native of Palo Alto, California. "I can get advice without having to feel as if I'm going to an information service."
Host families often invite their students for meals and share interests ranging from music to baseball games.
Parents reap as much pleasure from the arrangement as students, says Joan Blackett, a counselor at the Bureau of Study Counsel and a host parent. "The project is a two way street."
"It's wonderful to be whatever the student needs and to help introduce him to the Harvard community," she adds.
"The program really works for most of the students," says Marshall. "Most families love the relationships which they form."
Some families keep in touch with their students beyond the freshman year. According to Blackett, "Last year's student gave advice to this year's It's like a big brother situation."
For the past eight years, the Parents Association has sent out cards during the summer before freshman registration, asking selected students for their community, cultural, and recreational interests, as well as their educational goals.
Coordinator Eleanor C. Marshall, assistant to the president of the Parents Association, then matches up the students with families or professors, retired alumai, and University employees who request it. More than 100 students and 75 families are involved in this year's program.
Host Charles Coulson, manager of the Harvard Faculty Club, said yesterday he enjoys going down and watching his student play football. "It's nice to have somebody there to cheer 'Come on, Mike!'" Michael R, Haas '86 agrees.