Joan Rosenthal has been an international friendship volunteer with Rochester Global Connections for the last 30 years and has made connections with people in over 12 countries.
Rosenthal’s family became involved with RGC when her three children were young. Rosenthal and her late husband, Marvin, saw volunteering with RGC as a great opportunity to expose herself and her family to different cultures.
Their friendship students have come from Mexico, Peru, Norway and Japan, among others. In addition, Rosenthal has hosted dinner for international visitors from Jordan, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Herzegovina, Israel, Chile, Russia, Spain, and Peru through the International Visitors Leadership program hosted by RGC and sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
Being an International Friendship volunteer has allowed Rosenthal and her family to make countless lasting connections with people from around the world.
“My whole life has become richer by knowing these people,” Rosenthal said.
In the last four years, Rosenthal and Eric Dreyfuss hosted Asma and Sham, two students from Pakistan who studied at University of Rochester to earn their doctorates at the Warner School of Education. The students were very busy with schoolwork; however, Rosenthal and Dreyfuss spent time with Asma and Sham whenever they could. They enjoyed dinners at each other’s homes, including Thanksgiving dinner; shopping; seeing movies; and visiting local attractions such as the George Eastman Museum and the Strong National Museum of Play throughout their time in the U.S.
Rosenthal and Dreyfuss offered moral support and provided resources for medical issues. They also had the opportunity to attend Asma’s graduation, and Rosenthal went to Asma’s henna party to celebrate her engagement to a man back home. These experiences allowed Rosenthal and Dreyfuss to develop a close, personal relationship with the students. Asma and Sham returned to Pakistan last summer, but they keep in touch via email.
Rosenthal’s family gives international students a home away from home, a place they can go and depend on for consistency and security. Meeting international students has allowed her to learn about other cultures and to dispel preconceived stereotypes. And, in reverse, the friendship students have removed stereotypes about American culture and people.
“These relationships have confirmed that wherever we live in the world we desire the same basic qualities of life,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal and Dreyfuss encourage people to join Rochester Global Connections.
“It is a wonderful opportunity to expand cultural horizons and become a home away from home for international students,” they said.
Rosenthal and Dreyfuss are looking forward to getting to know their current friendship students, one from Costa Rica and the other from Pakistan.
For more information, call 585-275-8779 or visit