The entry of the Lin House is ornamented in paper, its white walls a resting place for photographs. “These are all the students that we’ve had here,” Bob Gomez notes, motioning at a collection of faces set against bright lengths of poster board. One display is pinned with the paler plumage of letters, all of them toppling with two words, emphatic in heavy pencil: “Thank you.”
Since 2013, Bob and Margie Gomez have taken the role of hosts at the Lin House in Kingsville. It is a way station that serves as a second home to those who have come far from what is familiar in order to attend Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Springing from a family’s care for newly arrived international students at TAMUK, the Lin House’s threshold has welcomed close to 35 students each semester since the Gomezes arrived; it is in a vein of hospitality tapped from the building’s namesake.
The grounds, 3,000 square feet of which are devoted as space for students, were formerly the residence of Dr. Ling Chin Lin, an obstetrician in Kingsville. Upon his passing, Lin’s wife and children shifted to Houston; yet somehow, the house never slipped out of their holding. After nearly 10 years of footing taxes for a structure that the family did not set boot prints in, Simon Lin and his siblings counseled their mother on selling the property. However, she was adamant that it was better spent on another purpose: as a hosting grounds for international students, just as she and her husband had often ushered them in as dinner guests.
Simon Lin found a set of hosts for these visitors in the Gomezes. “When he said, ‘we have this house and my mom has this vision—do you understand what she’s talking about?’ I was like, absolutely,” recalls Bob Gomez.
Contrary to the city’s name, the amount of housing available in Kingsville is not always palatial; out of the limitations of space, the university’s webpage for International Orientation notes, “Finding on or off campus housing can be challenging, so being aware of your options is very important.” For those who have recently arrived in the United States, settling a place of residence can be especially challenging.
Recognizing this, Elizabeth Laurence, international and multicultural programming coordinator for TAMUK, supported the project with a full heart. Aside from filling a need, Laurence acknowledged that the service of the Lin House represents the hospitality distinguishing south Texas.
As sponsors cover bills and provisions, lodgings are available in cycles of seven days, allowing students time to locate permanent residency. Yet, the week-long stays are time enough for bonds to forge. Bob Gomez laughs in explaining the ease with which students begin to refer to his wife as “Mom.” On fingers, he counts off where former guests have moved in furthering their education; it is customary for Margie Gomez to receive photos delivered through WhatsApp, charting adventures in Seattle, Atlanta, and Chicago.
Connections are maintained online as well, as former guests paper the Lin House’s Facebook page with messages of encouragement and appreciation. “Thank you each and every one who took efforts for international students to provide temporary accommodation,” Naresh Sanodariya noted. “It means a lot to us.” It is another wall of thanks for the welcoming spirits of two families.
Follow Kaitlin Ruiz on Twitter: @kaitlinruiz95