Ilham was part of the Community College Initiative this past year, studying social media at Madison Area Technical College. As part of the program, each student at the school was matched with a mentor family in the community to "help us not only introduce American culture directly but also help ease our transition and have the best experience during our stay."

I think it's fair to say Ilham's mentor relationship worked out pretty well. Here's what he had to say about how his mentor relationship improved his year in the States:
Believe it or not, leaving Madison in two weeks is more heartbreaking than the time I left Indonesia on August 2012.

I will always come back to my home country Indonesia to see my mom and family. But I don't know when in the future I?ll be coming back to Madison to visit my mentor family. My graduation day is coming up. My return travel itinerary has been prepared. Two suitcases of mine soon need packing. But no, I?m not ready to leave.

My mentor mom is Virginia Bryan. She is a librarian at the downtown campus of my college. Her husband is a retired university professor in Math and Computer Science. They have two grown children ? Alexander and Elizabeth. They welcome and treat me like their son in their family and I love them so much.

Here are the reasons why I love her:

1. She is enthusiastic
School started. I was excited. She was too. I always found her messages on Facebook asking how my school days were going. I was like a kid in kindergarten whose mom was curious and excited what?s going on. She?s curious about my school and all activities I do and makes sure everything is fine.

2. She is inspiring
I admire says treats people with a good attitude. She looks happy every day and has a positive outlook on everything. Whenever I told people that I am her mentee, all of them said that I am very lucky. She's my role model. She is a problem-solver and motivator. I think, besides a librarian, she's really capable of being a psychologist.

3. She is a very good listener
During my transition, I complained a lot about everything: school, the weather, my instructors, people's behavior, and other things. I can't thank her enough for how she always found a way to make me feel better when I stressed out with all the strangeness of living abroad.

4. She is caring
I told her that a stranger followed me when I was walking home late at night; she worried about my safety then she lent me a bike. The other day, I got sick and she's the one I could contact early morning to take me to the clinic. She also bought me an electric blanket to make me warm sleeping in the death of winter.

5. She is understanding
From the beginning, I told her that I am not used to eating American food served with cheese, mayonnaise, or any strange spices that I have never tried before. I really appreciate her understanding that I am not an adventurous person about western dishes. So she knew where to take me for supper and how to have something edible for me if she took me to her house. And she's a good cook too. I am happy when she cooks Jambalaya and makes Pastel de Tres Leches for me.

6. She is full of surprises
On her birthday last January, my mentor family and my friends were in cahoots to throw me a half-birthday party because my birthday is in July and I would not have a chance to celebrate it in Madison. She prepared a half-birthday cake, delicious Indonesian dishes for dinner, and of course presents. That was one of the best happy memories. Many times she surprised me with groceries, ice cream, and snacks. She also planned me a family trip to Minneapolis.

7. She is consistent.
Waiting for her message on Facebook to let me know what she's planned for us on weekends is kind of exciting. I better make myself available on weekends, otherwise, I might miss something fun with the Bryans. She has taken me to museums, the garden, theater, orchestra concerts, art shows, and many local events in Madison. In my home country, I didn?t remember when the last time was that I visited a museum.

8. She teaches
She has taught me good life values of generosity, honesty, sincerity, positive thinking on life and hospitality. She's like candles in the dark that has power to lighten people around her.

9. She is encouraging
She never gets me down. She is always behind me to support and encourage me that I can achieve all of my goals.

10. She is very patient
This is something that I also learned from my mentor. I don't have a good explanation on this but I can tell you that her level of patience is high.

Knowing these all, how can I not love her? 

Is there anyone who has made your university experience better? Share your story in the comments or by using the form below.