In the 21st Century, it is a global world that West Virginians find themselves in. For a new and prosperous future for our state and Morgantown, it is imperative for us to, “Bring the World to West Virginia and West Virginia to the World”.

We know Morgantown is a great little city. We know West Virginia is a beautiful place with great people. However, finding those who would travel here to find that out for themselves is no easy task.

That is what makes something like the West Virginia Council of International Programs (WVCIP) so important. Recently on Zackquill, a friend of mine, Fernando Zamora Favarelli, shared a touching note about his love of WV. He talked about what brought him from the Brazilian metropolis of Sao Paulo to our fair little city.

However, he wasn’t alone this past August when he arrived as part of the WVCIP. He was joined by 7 other international guests. They came to Morgantown to live for three months and work with local area businesses, non-profits, schools, WVU, and our even our Morgantown Fire Department. They hailed from all corners of the globe: Nigeria, Germany, Indonesia, China, and Cuba.

WVCIP is a unique opportunity to benefit West Virginians. It is a chance for us to learn other cultures and in return share our culture while promoting our community and our people.

And it has worked. Our brand of mountain hospitality has left an indelible impression on our guests.

“The slogan is Wild and Wonderful and that is absolutely right. The slogan is correct. The people of West Virginia, they are wild and wonderful,” says Lars Christiansen, 28 from Hamburg, Germany. He is a musician who worked with a local non-profit, the Friendship Room in downtown Morgantown. He is struck by the friendliness and openness of the community.

“The most impressive thing to me is how friendly, how nice, and how kind the people are. I’m from Hamburg, a big city. I really like Hamburg, I love my town, I was born there and grew up there, but the people of Morgantown are very friendly. When I go out running on the trail people will say hi to you. I really appreciate that. It’s a little bit of a family feeling you know?” says Lars.

A family feeling. I have no doubt that is a feeling shared by many West Virginians.

WVCIP’er Edward Suryengara (L) dives in the Monongahela River with a member of the Morgantown Fire Department. Working for international mining company in Indonesia, Edward came to Morgantown to learn new life-saving skills from the MFD that he can take back home.

Edward Suryengara, a firefighter who works for a large mining company in Indonesia. He came here to work with our professional firefighters in the Morgantown Fire Department. They provided him life-saving training as well as cultural experiences he won’t ever forget.

“West Virginia people and Morgantown people are really great. They are very nice people. Those who join this program are lucky people. This incredible program is not only find some skill, knowledge, and experience. We learn about each other’s culture,” Edward says.

Over WVCIP’s 44 years, Morgantown has hosted guests from almost every country you can imagine. They stay in town with families who volunteer their houses and their beds to these cultural ambassadors.

My wife and I were lucky to be hosts for Edward during his time in Morgantown. We went whitewater rafting and visited WVU Jackson’s Mill. We took him to Fright Farm and shopping at Ball Outlet. To see these things anew and from an outsider’s perspective is refreshing and one that we all need from time to time. We learned so much about Edward, his beautiful family, and his home in Indonesia. It is what makes hosting an unforgettable experience that you want to do again and again.

So I end this with an appeal: Consider becoming involved and helping us continue growing Morgantown and West Virginia’s international presence. The state and our city are a special place for us and for those who come from far away.

If you’re in the Morgantown area and you’re an empty-nester, with the kids out of the house (finally), then maybe Johnny can do the laundry on his own for a month. Use his room to be a host.

If you’re a young couple and you have not converted (yet) that extra bedroom into a nursery, then consider hosting.

West Virginia hospitality is a brand that we like to pride ourselves in. Help bring West Virginia to the World and the World to West Virginia. Our WVCIP’ers can teach us so much and as Fernando pointed out, we can show them quite a bit too.

For more information visit the West Virginia Council of International website.

WVCIP participants celebrate as they wrap up final week in Morgantown. From left to right: Amanda Fillipelli, WVCIP Board President, Verena Huesing from Germany, Edward Suryanegara from Indonesia, Lars Christiansen from Germany, Tatiana Patricia Rodriguez Vergara from Cuba, Kathleen Amaefule from Nigeria, Fernando Favarelli from Brazil, Jing Wang from China, onisola Adekanbi from Nigeria, and Jessica Demir from WVU Office of International Programs.

 



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