Returning for the second consecutive year, Ivan Baramov of Bulgaria is happy to be back in Destin this summer and even happier to see so many familiar faces.
"It's my second family, my second home," said Baramov, one of the many international students who come from all four corners of the world every summer as part of the J-1 work program.
More than 200 international students like Baramov attended The Destin International Students Outreach welcome dinner on Sunday night at the Destin Life Center at the Destin United Methodist Church.
The night offered the students a unique opportunity to come together to make ties with locals and other students in the program and mingle in a fun, casual setting. The welcome dinner saw nearly twice as many students as last year, with right at 200 students attending.
As the students snacked, games and various activities filled the church with a fun sense of community and home.
Also up from last year was the amount of bicycle packages that were raffled off — close to 200 bikes were given to the students compared to 50 last year.
According to the nights "unofficial photographer," and program volunteer Stephanie Krol, every single student went home with a bike this year, thanks to the generosity of the community.
"About 200 bicycle packages (including the bicycle, helmet, lock and a light) were given out last night to the students," said Krol. "It was really special."
The Destin International Students Outreach program will host a weekly dinner for the students at 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday at the Destin Life Center of the Destin United Methodist Church, located at 200 Beach Drive.