Japanese Student Visits a Pumpkin Patch with Her FFIS Conversation Friend

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FFIS’ Conversation Friend Program is a unique opportunity for volunteers to connect with a University of Oregon international student during the student’s first year in Eugene. The student and volunteer are matched on the basis of shared interests. They meet for around one hour per week in a public setting.

What the volunteer and student choose to do is up to them.  FFIS member Jean McClain recently took her conversation friend Yui to the Northern Lights Christmas Tree Farm.  It was Yui’s first time to visit a pumpkin patch and go on a hay ride.  She clearly enjoyed the experience as the bright smile in these pictures show.

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We can always use more volunteers!  If you’re interested in learning more or participating, send an e-mail to FFIS.ConversationFriends@gmail.com or give us a call.  Craig Biersdorff (541-517-7652) or June Brooks (541-714-7735) will be in touch with you to answer your questions.

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FFIS News for October 2019

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The UO academic year has started and so are FFIS’ programs. It’s time for an update on our activities.


Fundraiser: Hop Valley Brewing is donating $1 to FFIS for every pint served between 5:00 and 8:00 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 16.  Invite a friend, enjoy a craft beer, and help FFIS raise money.  Hop Valley is located in the Whiteaker neighborhood at 990 W. 1st Avenue in Eugene.  Other fundraising opportunities can be viewed here.


Fall Homestay Program: Forty-five host families opened their hearts and homes to 57 newly arrived international students attending the University of Oregon.  FFIS surveyed our host families and the homestay students.  You can read some of the feedback on these blog posts:


Welcome Picnic: Several hundred international students from the University of Oregon and Lane Community College enjoyed food, fun, and new friendships Saturday, Sept. 21, at Alton Baker Park. The UO Duck and LCC Titan mascots stopped by. Paul Harvey’s pictures captured the activities on a sunny fall day.

FFIS Welcome Picnic

The picnic began with Steering Committee introductions and words of welcome from:

A picnic this size can’t happen without volunteer and community contributions such as:

  • Host families who came and brought large salads
  • LCC students who were invaluable with setup, food service, and clean up
  • Lane Community College for providing rice and salads
  • Paul Harvey and Susie Peters for cooking the 300 hot dogs served
  • Trader Joe’s for providing cookies and watermelon and having a table there with some giveaway items
  • Bi-Mart for providing the plates and napkins
  • Cash & Carry for providing a gift card we used to purchase cups
  • Steering Committee members, especially co-chairs Cindee Robertson and Deanna Brandt

Conversation Friend Program: We can always use more volunteers!  If you’re interested in learning more or participating, send an e-mail to FFIS.ConversationFriends@gmail.com.  Craig Biersdorff or June Brooks will be in touch with you to answer your questions.  Matching for the fall term will begin in October.


Share Thanksgiving: If you’re interested in sharing your Thanksgiving tradition with an international student (or two), let us know by sending an e-mail to FFIS@UOregon.edu.

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Hungry international students preparing to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner

Mark Your Calendar
Share Thanksgiving – November 28
Winter Homestay – Dec. 28 to Jan. 4


FFIS Steering Committee – Any member is welcome to attend our Steering Committee meetings.  We meet at 11:30 am on the first Wednesday of every month from Sept. through June in the second-floor conference room at Umpqua Bank, 675 Oak St., near the Hult Center and Lane County Courthouse. If you’d like to get on the agenda, send an e-mail in advance to FFIS President Matthew Fisher at ffiseugene@gmail.com.

Thank you for offering your time and talents, your home and hospitality, to international students far from their home and families! You become like a second family to them and your heartfelt generosity fosters enormous goodwill. That in a nutshell is what FFIS’ mission is all about. Your comments, feedback, and suggestions are always welcome.

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Your FFIS Steering Committee

Chair & Treasurer – Matthew Fisher (541-255-0626 or mfisher333@gmail.com)
Secretary – Open

Conversation Friend Coordinators:
June Brooks (541-714-7735 or ffis.conversationfriends@gmail.com)
Craig Biersdorff (541-517-7652 or ffis.conversationfriends@gmail.com)

Committee Chairs:

Fundraising – Deanna Brandt
Media – Rick Obst
Volunteer Retention – Kent Henricksen
Volunteer Recruitment – Jean McClain
Welcome Picnic – Cindee Robertson and Deanna Brandt

Other Steering Committee Members – Paul Harvey and Ray Slaughter. 

U of O Liaison – Becky Megerssa
LCC Liaison – Tomomi Kurosaki


If you want to touch the past, touch a rock.
If you want to touch the present, touch a flower.
If you want to touch the future, touch a life.

Host Family and Students

FFIS Host Families Share Their Tips for New Host Families

FFIS Homestay Program

The FFIS Homestay Program matches University of Oregon international students with local community volunteers for a short-term homestay when the student first arrives in Lane County. Volunteers open their hearts and home to young adults far from home, helping them to get oriented and settled. Homestay families have created many fond memories for the students that they’ve hosted.

This fall 57 students stayed with 45 host families.  FFIS surveys the families after the homestay ends.  One question asks families to share ideas and suggestions new families can use when they begin hosting.

If you could share your experience with a new FFIS host, what tip would you offer?

  • Cooking meals together is a fun way to get to know each other. We have some conversation starter questions that were fun to answer after eating.
  • Be open to new things. Speak slowly and clearly so they can understand you. Pause and look directly at them when they speak and compliment their English.
  • Take them to the Coast if you can. Many times, the students are worried about getting things set up, but there’s usually time to do that and also let them see a broader part of Oregon.
  • Understand that every student will come with different expectations. Some will become very close friends and some will drift away after the first two weeks. This is not a reflection on the host family. Also, plan a fun thing to do and laugh!
  • Make sure they attend the welcome picnic and gradually encourage them to become more independent.FFIS Welcome Picnic
  • Try to clear your schedule for part of the time to help them get ready to move in.
  • Be friendly and be yourself. Try to learn what you can about your student’s country.
  • It is useful to know something of the culture and traditions of the country your student is from.
  • Try it and see if you like it!
  • We spent time talking about how to make friends. For instance, after introducing yourself we talked about the variety of questions to ask someone. My young woman was very excited to tell me how wonderful this worked and how quickly she is making friends.
  • Be clear about the dates of the stay from the very beginning.
  • Be sensitive to the student’s need for sleep upon arrival. Reinforce the length of stay you have agreed to. Be open to learning new things about the student’s homeland. Don’t talk politics or religion. If you attend church, politely ask if the student would like to attend with you.
  • The first night, let them rest. On the second day, get them situated on campus and go shopping.Picnic Scene
  • Be flexible, but at the same time help the student become aware of the expectations of behavior in your family and in American culture.
  • This is a rewarding experience.
  • Be good listeners. Have positive suggestions ready. Most students are very capable of being on their own, are proficient in English, and are highly motivated. But they are far from home and do run into snags. These students will be leaders in their own country, and it is important that they have a good experience while they are here.
  • Be able and willing to change your plans with little advance notice.
  • Usually the student is more confident with his or her written English language skills versus their verbal skills. Have a journal in which students can better express themselves about their homestay experience and read what past students have written. If the student feels more comfortable writing in their native language, let them. A future student that speaks that language can always translate it. You’d be amazed what students will write that they are afraid to verbalize, because they are not comfortable verbalizing it in English.

There are usually more students wanting a homestay experience than there are available host families. If you’re not yet a volunteer, but are interested in learning more about the program, read the FAQ page or e-mail FFIS@UOregon.edu.

Thai Students

What Was the Most Rewarding Part of Hosting?

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The FFIS Homestay Program matches University of Oregon international students with local community volunteers for a short-term homestay when the student first arrives in Lane County. Volunteers open their hearts and home to young adults far from home, helping them to get oriented and settled. Homestay families have created many fond memories for the students that they’ve hosted.

This fall 57 students stayed with 45 host families.  FFIS surveys the families after their stay. This is what some of them had to say about the student they hosted:

What was the most rewarding part of hosting?

  • We met a very nice young man who seemed very comfortable in our home
  • We got to meet another great young woman from Taiwan. She was curious and open to everything. It was a pleasure to have her. We always learn something. We also appreciate how anxious student’s parents are about their student’s experience, and it is rewarding to put them more at ease to have “grandparents” here in Eugene.
  • The opportunity to interact with our student, both in English and German (her language).
  • The joy of helping students in a hard and new time.
  • Seeing the students from four different countries become friends and share their hopes and plans for the future.
  • Seeing my guest interacting with my kids.
  • Our friendship student is a delightful young lady.
  • Meeting a delightful young man from France and learning about his culture.
  • Meeting our student and getting to know her. She was very polite and gracious. Eager to learn about our culture and people. Very enjoyable to have in our home. Easy to serve food. fit right in.
  • Learning more about other cultures and countries through visiting students and introducing them to life here in Eugene – Oregon – USA
  • Learning about the student’s home life and their education goals.
  • Learning about our student’s family, country, and his plans, aspirations, and fears. He has already been back for a weekend stay and will be joining us for Easter dinner.
  • Learning about Iran!
  • Helping our student to get acclimated to Eugene and sharing cultural activities with her.
  • Knowing that we are helping a student’s transition to life in the US.
  • Giving a big hug when the luggage still had not shown up after 4 days! Also helping to problem solve unique challenges. We always learn so much about other cultures when we try to explain our own differences!!
  • Getting to know two interesting young scholars. Getting them on bicycles and helping them be independent and settled. Sharing cultural and musical events with them.
  • Everything! She is a delight. I feel I helped her be launched into the dorm and making new friends.
  • Enjoying meeting a lovely girl from Japan. She was grateful and easy to get to know.

There are usually more students wanting a homestay experience than there are available host families. If you’re not yet a volunteer, but are interested in learning more about the program, read the FAQ page or e-mail FFIS@UOregon.edu.

FFIS Homestay Program

What Was the Most Rewarding Part of Your FFIS Homestay?

Greeting at the Airport

The FFIS Homestay Program matches international students with local community volunteers for a short-term homestay when the student first arrives in Lane County. Volunteers open their hearts and home to young adults far from home, helping them to get oriented and settled. The friendships built during that brief period often last well beyond when the student has returned to their native country. Homestay families have created many fond memories for the students that they’ve hosted.

This fall 57 students stayed with 45 host families.  FFIS surveys the students after their stay. This is what some of them had to say about their host family and the Homestay Program:

What was the most rewarding part of your FFIS Homestay?

  • Peaceful air, a great bedroom, and delicious foods,
  • They took me to the Oregon Coast, a restaurant, and shopping. It was an exciting time for me.
  • My host family was very kind and kept in contact with me.
  • They always worried about me and helped me when I needed it.
  • They cooked very good dinners. And we have same hobby to watch soccer games. We talked a lot about soccer.
  • They are really nice to me.
  • My host family was really friendly and hospitable. They helped me a lot in finding a place to stay and getting furniture.
  • My host helped me adapt to Eugene and made me feel accepted in the community. She gave me a brief explanation about the city & culture, and acted as a perfect mother for me in the three days I stayed with her.
  • My host family treated me as their own family member. They helped me to find an apartment and arrange shopping for my apartment. We cooked wonderful western and Indonesian food together. They brought me to the store with a very affordable price since they know I am a Fulbright student with a limited budget. They gave me some stuff of their own, so I don’t need to buy them for a couple of weeks. They tried very hard in introducing me to be survive as a student in the USA. I am lucky to know them. They are my angels.
  • My homestay parents helped me out a lot! Especially after the program ended. They are great people who I cannot thank enough.
  • Meeting new people from a different culture.
  • I’ve learned how American people live, how nice people are in Eugene, and how to get used to life in the US. It feels like I’m a member of their family.
  • I was nervous when I arrived in Eugene. They welcomed me warmly and always cared about me after I moved to the dorm. With their help, I don’t feel lonely. I appreciate FFIS.
  • I loved meeting Denise and her family. Everyone was very kind, welcoming and helpful.
  • I felt like I never left home. Katie and Bob have just become like family to me. They are my family in Eugene.
  • I can experience the real American lifestyle thanks to my kind host family.
  • Having dinner with the whole family was the most memorable part. And also I feel like they really care me, because they took me to buy lots of stuff. 
  • Getting to know good people in Eugene.

There are usually more students wanting a homestay experience than there are available host families. If you’re not yet a volunteer, but are interested in learning more about the program, read the FAQ page or e-mail FFIS@UOregon.edu.

FFIS Homestay Program

FFIS News in 1984 – A Look Back in Time

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The Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) has been matching University of Oregon students and scholars with local community members since 1950.  It has a rich and active history building friendships across cultures and borders.  This post takes a look back at what was happening with FFIS in a 1984 newsletter to members.

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FFIS News for May 2019

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The University of Oregon’s academic year is winding down and so are FFIS’ programs until September.  It’s time for an update on where we’ve been and where we’re headed in 2019-2020.

By now you’ve probably received an envelope in the mail from the Steering Committee containing a cover letter, the Falling Sky fundraising flyer, and five business cards.  If you didn’t and would like to get on our mailing list, send an e-mail to FFISEugene@gmail.com.


Annual Member Update Form: Action Requested!  We need to hear from you so that we can plan for matching volunteers with students for the Short-term Homestay and Conversation Friend programs.  Please complete our annual current member update form by May 15.


 Conversation Friend Program: We can always use more volunteers!  If you’re interested in learning more or participating, send an e-mail to FFIS.ConversationFriends@gmail.com.  Craig Biersdorff or June Brooks will be in touch with you to answer your questions.  Matching for the fall term will begin in October.


FFIS Homestay Program

Spring Homestay: In March, FFIS families hosted eleven students and one scholar with a wife and two children.  The feedback was overwhelmingly positive from host families and students.  Thank you to everyone who opened their hearts and homes to students far from home.  You can read about some of their experiences here and here.

Fall Homestay: It’s not too soon to start thinking about the Fall Homestay program which starts on Sept. 17.  We have to end student homestay registrations very early to ensure that we can match the students with available FFIS host families.  Please complete the member update form and encourage people you know to consider becoming a short-term host family (or Conversation Friend volunteer).


Welcome Picnic: Our annual Welcome Picnic will be on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Alton Baker Park ramadas.  All FFIS members and incoming international students from the University of Oregon and Lane Community College are invited to attend.

The start time is moved up to 11:00 am because a Wine Dash fun run will be held in the open fields north of the ramadas that same day beginning at noon.  We’ll coordinate with the event organizer to help minimize any impact on our Picnic. The UO Duck and LCC Titan mascots will be there, as well as dignitaries from UO, LCC, Eugene, and Springfield.


Fundraising: FFIS is an all-volunteer organization and relies upon fundraising and donations to pay for the necessary expenses.  This Sunday, May 12, Falling Sky Brewery will donate 25% of your purchases to FFIS if you present them with the flyer that you received in the mail.  We appreciate your support!  Other fundraising opportunities can be viewed here.


Mark Your 2019 Calendar
Fall Homestay Matching – July, August, and early September
Fall Homestay – Starts Tuesday, Sept. 17
Welcome Picnic – Saturday, Sept. 21 at 11:00 am at the Alton Baker Park Ramadas
Conversation Friend Matching – October
Share Thanksgiving – November 28
Winter Homestay – Dec. 28 to Jan. 4


FFIS Steering Committee – Any member is welcome to attend our Steering Committee meetings.  We meet at 11:30 am on the first Wednesday of every month from Sept. through June in the second-floor conference room at Umpqua Bank, 675 Oak St., near the Hult Center and Lane County Courthouse. If you’d like to get on the agenda, send an e-mail in advance to FFIS President Matthew Fisher at ffiseugene@gmail.com.


 Thank you for offering your time and talents, your home and hospitality, to international students far from their home and families! You become like a second family to them and your heartfelt generosity fosters enormous goodwill. It makes a lasting impact on their lives. That in a nutshell is what FFIS’ mission is all about. Your comments, feedback, and suggestions are always welcome.


Your FFIS Steering Committee
Chair & Treasurer – Matthew Fisher (541-255-0626 or mfisher333@gmail.com)
Secretary – Suzanne Dassenko

Conversation Friend Coordinators:
June Brooks
 (541-914-7735 or ffis.conversationfriends@gmail.com)
Craig Biersdorff (541-517-7652 or ffis.conversationfriends@gmail.com)

Committee Chairs:
Fundraising – Deanna Brandt
Media – Rick Obst 
Volunteer Retention – Kent Henricksen and Roger Ludeman 
Volunteer Recruitment – Jean McClain

Steering Committee Members – Cindee Robertson, Paul Harvey, and Ray Slaughter.

 U of O Liaison – Becky Megerssa
LCC Liaison – Tomomi Kurosaki


If you want to touch the past, touch a rock.
If you want to touch the present, touch a flower.
If you want to touch the future, touch a life.

FFIS’ Very First Newsletter – Winter 1983

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The Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) was founded in 1950 as the Foreign Student Friendship Foundation.  It has a long and rich history creating friendships with international students attending the University of Oregon.  Read about what we were up to in the winter of 1983 when our first newsletter was published and sent to our members.  You can view a pdf version here.

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FFIS Homestay Program Creates Friendships That Bridge Time and Distance

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“Hi Dad!  How’s it going?”  That was the Facebook message that I read from an international student that my wife and I hosted six years ago.  I replied with news about what we’d been up to lately.  She answered by saying that she felt close to us and asked if she could visit us next month on her vacation if we were available.

FFIS volunteers know that hosting an international student can create a special bond that lasts for years.  They become like a second family, making students feel like they’re at a second home instead of living far from their own home.  It’s not unusual for students to return for a visit or for FFIS volunteers to travel and stay with their student’s family.  Each story is unique, but with the common thread of deep friendships established that bridge time and distance.

Become an FFIS Volunteer Host

Invite a stranger from a foreign country into your home for a few days? There must be some reason why FFIS host families do this for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30+ years?  Many host not just one student, but two or more.  What do they know that others don’t?

The FFIS Homestay Program matches University of Oregon international students with local community volunteers for a short-term homestay when the student first arrives in Lane County. Volunteers open their hearts and home to young adults far from their home, helping them to get oriented and settled. The friendships built during that brief period often last well beyond when the student has returned to their native country. Homestay families have created many fond memories for the students that they’ve hosted.

To learn more about the FFIS short-term homestay program, visit the FAQ page, send an e-mail to FFIS@UOregon.edu, or complete an online application.  The homestay dates for the spring, fall, and winter terms are shown here.

FFIS Homestay Students Ride Snowmobiles for the First Time

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Donia from Egypt enjoying snowmobiling for her first time

University of Oregon international students don’t know what to expect when they first arrive in Eugene to begin their studies at the University of Oregon.  Donia from Turkey and Yohan from France certainly didn’t expect that they’d be riding snowmobiles for their first time just a few days after their plane landed.

This experience is but one of many varied adventures that newly arriving international students enjoy if they’re fortunate enough to be placed with a local FFIS home stay volunteer.  The hosts usually become like a second family to the students as they adjust to American culture, foods, and education system.  The students may stay with the FFIS volunteer for a week or less, but the memories and friendships will last a lifetime.

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Yohan from France enjoying the snow with his FFIS host family

Invite a stranger from a foreign country into your home for a few days? There must be some reason why FFIS host families do this for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30+ years?  Many host not just one student, but two or more.  What do they know that others don’t?

The FFIS Homestay Program matches University of Oregon international students with local community volunteers for a short-term homestay when the student first arrives in Lane County. Volunteers open their hearts and home to young adults far from their home, helping them to get oriented and settled. The friendships built during that brief period often last well beyond when the student has returned to their native country. Homestay families have created many fond memories for the students that they’ve hosted.

To learn more about the FFIS short-term homestay program, visit the FAQ page, send an e-mail to FFIS@UOregon.edu, or complete an online application.  The homestay dates for the spring, fall, and winter terms are shown here.