The St. Stephen’s Host Family Program Celebrates Another Successful Year of Bonding With International Students

Each spring, St. Stephen’s sponsors a gratitude picnic that brings together its international boarding students and their host family as part of the decades-old St. Stephen’s Host Family Program. The initiative was designed to make international students feel more at home in a foreign country. This year’s ‘thank you’ gathering was held on campus.

“I think there's also an interesting element of sharing family life and home culture,” says Liza Ayres ’14, International Program assistant. “In some cases, it's so different in the United States compared to where the student is from, so I think that's a really nice part of the program in that there's an exchange of cultural knowledge and just different cultural norms.”

This year, 115 families signed up to be part of the program serving as stateside family members to 118 international students. The St. Stephen’s International Office is keenly aware of which families would pair well with a particular student. They look for similarities that would make a good match. 

“Oftentimes, we'll know a family and know, maybe the son plays baseball. And so someone [student] who’s interested in baseball we pair them together,” says Ayres. Once paired together, families are free to invite students on outings, dinner and so much more.

“It could be just taking them for ice cream or to an Austin FC game, or to Zilker Park,” says Ayres. “Activities vary from family to family, but every family is so generous with their time and really wanting to get to know their student, which is awesome.”

Annie Wilkerson, who is host mom to Mai Sakakibara ’26, says she loves the program.

“It's just been such a special way to get to know Mai in depth, and I got to coach Mai in lacrosse,” says Wilkerson.

The Clark family is a repeat participant and loves that international student Fan Shing Hung ’28 and their son Tommy Clark II ’28 are both eighth graders and can hang out together.

“I just really want to embrace the international student culture that we have here at St. Stephen’s,” says Alicia Clark. “It really helps us to get to know everyone because we have two day students, so it’s been really great.”

"The Host Family Picnic is really special to the whole residential community because they get to see their host student and also friends of their host student, and they get to meet members of the residential faculty and see everyone on campus at once," says Ayres.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213