FFIS Newsletter, May 2021

Notes from the Chair

Through the years, I have witnessed the ebb and flow that nonprofits like the Friendship Foundation have endured here in Eugene. The financially leaner years after the Great Recession forced our organization to find new ways to fund our programs and services. It also tested our commitment to our mission of bridging cultures, enhancing friendships, and fostering goodwill with the international community.

As the academic year comes to a close, I am reminded of the strength and courage it took to move through the recession and into an era of renewed focus, purpose and opportunity. Today the Covid-19 pandemic presents a new set of challenges, ones that may exist indefinitely. But, as before, I’m confident that good judgement and reasonable action will prevail and Eugene, the United States, and the international community will find a way to get back to some semblance of our recent past. 

That said, we have started the planning process for each of our programs and events. Please keep in mind that we remain committed to the health and safety of every volunteer and international student, and will continue to communicate with the UO’s Division of Global Engagement and local health authorities to determine best practices when we return to in-person programing and events.  While were excited at the prospect of getting back to “normal”, we also understand that this is an iterative process, requiring certain things to fall in place in order to move forward. Ultimately, our plans will be contingent on what state and local authorities decide come fall. 

~Matthew Fisher

Fall Term Update

FFIS is planning to re-open the short-term homestay and conversation friend programs to new incoming international students and visiting scholars.  Many new international students rely on FFIS’ short-term homestay program for temporary housing prior to moving into on-campus student housing, and the conversation friend program gives students a connection to a community friend to practice English conversation and learn about our community.

We understand there may be concerns about COVID-19 in considering to host or volunteer. We have been in consultation with the UO, which requires all new students to be fully vaccinated prior to the start of fall term. Based on this, FFIS will follow the same policy for volunteers and students as follows:

1. New international students/scholars must be vaccinated prior to arrival to the U.S. in order to be matched with a FFIS host family.

2. FFIS hosts and volunteers must be vaccinated prior to hosting an international student/scholar.

Volunteer Update Survey

It has been a year since we last heard from many of you and a lot has happened since then (understatement of the year!) We want to know if you are still interested in volunteering with FFIS this coming year.

Please take a few minutes to update your interest and contact information.  We would like to hear from you by June 15th. Click HERE to go to the FFIS Volunteer Update Survey.

Thank you in advance for responding to our survey!

Short-Term Homestay Program

We have updated our website with important dates to help you plan.

Homestay Expectations: https://ffisoregon.org/program-information/

Homestay Dates and International Student Orientation: https://ffisoregon.org/homestay-date-international-student-orientation/

Conversation Friend Update

The Conversation Friend Program, a long core component of our FFIS outreach, was tabled this school year. The program is one in which we pair one volunteer with one student to encourage friendship as well as to provide a chance for students to practice their conversational English skills with a native speaker. While we considered having a virtual conversational friend program, with our greatly reduced number of international students, it was decided to suspend the program until fall 2021. It has been disappointing to our many wonderful volunteers not to have this chance to form a special bond with a student or a visiting scholar from another country. We continue to hope that as the U of O campus works towards reopening in-person classes in the fall, that we will be able to start the program up again in October. Please consider volunteering to be a conversation friend once it is considered a safe and prudent thing to do. It is a program that is greatly loved by our students and by our volunteers and we look forward to reinstating it. 

Please also visit our website for information and stories about our Conversation Friend Program: https://ffisoregon.org/conversation-friend-information/

Lasting Friendship

I’m very grateful for the Conversation Friend Program of UO! And it is a pleasure to have had my conversation friend, Cindee!  For me, she was not only a talking partner, but an English teacher, a true friend, a respectable senior in my life. I learned so much from her about America, Oregon, especially Eugene. She helped me a lot in my daily life when I stayed in Eugene and gave me a very warm and impressive memory there! We still keep in touch now and always miss each other!

Ye 
Beijing, China

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FFIS Plans for Fall Picnic

Members of the FFIS are tentatively beginning to plan to have the Annual Fall Picnic to welcome new international students. The picnic date is October 2 2021, and plans are underway to enjoy a picnic to welcome new international students, host families, FFIS volunteers, and U of O and Lane CC staff to the event. Plans will be contingent on progress on Covid vaccines and Covid rates in Eugene. 

As you may have heard through the local media, the UO is returning to primarily in-person instruction fall term 2021. This means that we will see the return of international students and visiting scholars to the UO in September. We are very excited to welcome students to our community again! 

 FFIS Guiding Principles

As an organization, FFIS is welcoming, supportive, inclusive, and fun. We value open-mindedness and respect for the richness of cultures around the world. FFIS asks that anyone participating in our activities comply with the following Guiding Principles:

  • Keep the welfare of UO international students, scholars and their dependents foremost.
  • Follow through on your commitment as a volunteer.
  • Demonstrate awareness of, sensitivity to, and respect for other values, beliefs, viewpoints, systems, and cultures.
  • Recognize the cultural orientations and values of others, and be aware of how those orientations affect their interactions with people from other cultures.
  • Be accepting and inclusive of others no matter their race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, age, political opinion, immigration status, or disability.
  • Accept and embrace others of all religions and political beliefs without proselytizing. Proselytizing is defined as unsolicited, coercive, manipulative, and/ or hidden persuasion that seeks to influence others to adopt another way of thinking, believing, or behaving, particularly in relation to religion or politics.
  • Do not exploit, threaten, coerce or sexually harass others.
  • Seek appropriate guidance and direction when faced with ethical dilemmas.

Please help us ensure that FFIS is a place where international friendships can truly flourish.

FFIS Homestay Students Tour Nike Campus Thanks to Past Homestay Student

Douffy Youm from Senegal was an FFIS homestay student many years ago.  He graduated and worked his way up to become an executive at Nike in Portland, but still kept in touch with his FFIS host family.

The family hosted four University of Oregon international students prior to the fall term.  One of the students is interested in the sports business, so the family reached out to Douffy to see how he could help.

Douffy (in the green sweatshirt) invited them all to Portland and gave them a tour of the Nike campus.  Everyone had a great time and a memorable experience that they can share with family and friends back home.  You never know what special moments might be created when participating in this program!

FFIS Homestay Students Visit Nike Campus

 


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.

If you’d like to host an international student in FFIS’ Homestay Program, contact Becky Megerssa, UO Liaison, at 541-346-1436 or ffis@uoregon.edu.

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

ffis news

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

ffis news

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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