International Student Finds Shelter and Friendship

Favro, Nelson, Costello

International student Silvia Favro visited New York during the height of Hurricane Florence to escape the storm and returned to Wilmington with no place to go. Extensive damage by Hurricane Florence had forced the UNCW campus to remain closed. But, she wasn’t displaced for long.

Favro was welcomed home by Wilmington residents who opened their homes to her, including Kim Nelson and her husband, Tim Costello.

“Thanks to the hurricane, I had the opportunity to live with an American family,” said Favro, a native of Italy who came to UNCW for a semester to study marketing and international business.

“If I were a traveler in another country during a natural disaster I would hope someone local would be willing to help me out,” said Nelson. “I think about the students and how scary this must be and their parents worrying about their safety. This seemed a way we could help take some of the scariness away and get to know the students better during their short time here.”

Nelson is a volunteer in UNCW’s Office of International Programs’ Community Host program, which pairs Wilmington residents and families with UNCW international students to foster cross-cultural friendships. They help ease students’ transition to campus while providing them an opportunity to engage with American culture. Nelson and her husband had spent time with Favro prior to the hurricane, and the friendship had already taken root.

Nelson, who also mentors through the Cameron Executive Network and the College of Health and Human Services’ Clinical Research program, said the host programs allows her and her husband to learn about other cultures and meet new people.

“I look at it from the perspective similar to the students that I mentor,” she said. “These young people are our future, so it’s nice to know what they are thinking about and what they are worried about, and maybe offer a little guidance and recommendations along the way.”

Over the course of Favro’s stay, the couple’s home became an international crossroads, with students from Germany, Italy and Spain as well as their host families attending a potluck organized by the international students.

Favro also spent time volunteering with the United Way of the Cape Fear. She said it was a way to give back to her home away from home.

“It was a positive way of doing something to help the community,” Favro said. “The storm is something I will never forget.”

-- Venita Jenkins