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

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.

Nervous UO International Student From Asia Meets His FFIS Host Family

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The young Asian university student steps off the Amtrak train as it arrives in Eugene, Oregon, a few days after he has arrived in the United States from halfway around the world. He’s still overcoming jetlag and he’s spent the last few hours sitting beside a stranger who mumbles to himself.  He’s far from home and his widowed mother and three siblings.  This will be the longest period of time that he’ll be separated from his identical twin brother.

He’s about to spend the next nine months as an exchange student studying biochemistry at the University of Oregon. He’s nervous about his English language skills and justifying the large investment that his mother is investing in him.  This is the first stage of his plan to create a brighter future for himself and the family he has left.

UO International Student Meets His FFIS Host Family

A couple sitting on a bench see him walk toward the train station and rise with broad smiles to introduce themselves. They load his luggage into their car and take him to their home, talking all the while in a friendly tone.  They arrive at this couple’s home.  He’s welcomed into the house, given a tour, and shown his bedroom where he’ll sleep for the next few nights.

It’s hard to rapidly process the spoken English. What are the American customs?  How should I properly react?  What will my life be like for the coming months?  I’m hungry, what’s for dinner?  He brings out the carefully selected gifts that he has brought which his hosts warmly appreciate.

The student’s stress and anxiety gradually abates as he understands that he has a new, hospitable family to help him transition to a new life and culture very different from what he’s used to. He’ll stay at the couple’s home for several days until he moves into his dorm room.

He’s nervous about speaking, because the written English language skills he’s learned are far superior to his conversational skills.  He writes four pages of excellent English in the couple’s journal about his family and his hopes and dreams, far more than what he verbalized during his homestay.

He moves into his dorm room, but the couple stays in touch.  He’s invited for holidays and outings.  The FFIS Homestay Program creates another bond that will last for years.

One of Thousands of Host Family Stories Over the Years

This story is the introduction to one of a few thousand unique stories that could be told about the Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) homestay program and volunteers who have been hosting incoming UO international students since 1949. The memories and stories created from these hosting experiences will generate even more memories and stories over the years and decades.  Hundreds of pages could be written about the various bonds of friendship established across borders, cultures, and religions.

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 invite not just one student, but two or more.  What do they know that others don’t?

Interested in creating a story of your own?  Send an e-mail to FFIS@UOregon.edu to learn more.

Australian Homestay Student Keeps in Touch With His FFIS Host Family

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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 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.

FFIS Volunteer and Steering Committee Secretary Suzanne Dassenko shares her story about being a worried “Mom” after she and her husband Bill hosted an Australian student for a few days:

We hosted a young man, Skye, from Australia, for just one term this past fall. After leaving Eugene he was going to travel in South America. Since I was his “American Mom”, I was a little concerned about him traveling in some of the countries. I asked him if he would check in occasionally so that I would know that he was ok. And he did.

About once a month, he would find wifi that would enable him to send some photos of where he was currently traveling and let me know that he was OK. I heard from him just several days ago when he told me that he was finally headed back home to Australia.

Skye in Machu Picchu

This is what he wrote: “Tonight, I board my plane back to Australia so that brings to an end 7 months of travelling/studying abroad. I just want to thank you again for not only being a part of it, but also giving me some of the best memories of my time spent away. I can honestly say I miss you guys. Hope you are well and I’ll speak to you when I’m back in my homeland of Australia. Regards, Your Aussie son.”

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. You can also complete an online host family application here.

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 Conversation Friends Share Many Wonderful Experiences Together

Weston and Akari Dancing

The FFIS Conversation Friend Program matches local community volunteers with University of Oregon international students for fellowship and friendship.  They meet in a public setting and share activities of mutual interest.  FFIS Volunteer and Steering Committee member Jean McClain talks about her experience as a Conversation Friend:

For our first meeting, Akari, my conversation friend from Japan, and I walked on the U of O campus among the magnificent trees with fall-colored leaves.  I knew right away that this was a good match.  Like myself, Akari is somewhat reserved, but loves learning, trying new things and having fun. 

Some of the most memorable times we’ve spent together include carving pumpkins, touring the U of O art museum, and on Valentine’s Day making pop-up cards and a gingerbread heart-shaped cake.  My two kids, who both go to the U of O, enjoy spending time with her as well.  They made a music video with her and her roommate where they dressed up and sang, and they also took her to a U of O football game.

Akari dancing with Weston

We went swing dancing which she thought was so much fun, and her roommate from Taiwan said it was one of the most fun things she has ever done.  We also do things together which to me seem mundane, such as shopping at WinCo, Costco, and Trader Joe’s.  But to her it is a food adventure.  Her enthusiasm helps me to look at my own culture in new ways, as she tells me the differences in the food they eat in Japan and the kinds of things that are sold in stores there.

On the Valentine card she made us, she wrote “Thank you for taking me to a lot of new places and letting me do amazing experiences!!!  I’m so happy I can spend time with you.”

To learn more about this program, visit the Conversation Friend Information page or send an e-mail to ffis.conversationfriends@gmail.com.

Erica with Weston

FFIS Homestay Students Prepare A Meal For Their Host Family

FFIS volunteers have many wonderful experiences with the University of Oregon international students that they meet through the Short-term Homestay Program. Fast friendships are formed during the first few days the students stay with a host family after arriving in Lane County. The interactions usually continue well beyond when the student moves into an apartment or dorm.

FFIS homestay students appreciate the opportunity to have a local family that becomes like a second set of parents while they’re studying at the University. Many search for ways to return the favor to the best of their abilities. It’s a bonus when they can cook meals traditional to their country and culture!

Bill and Suzanne Dassenko have hosted many students over the years. Last fall they hosted two young men. Hooman is a PhD student in architecture from Iran. Filip is a law student from Sweden. The two students got along so well together during the homestay that they became roommates sharing an apartment.

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Hooman and Filip preparing dinner for Bill and Suzanne

They invited Bill and Suzanne to a special “thank you” dinner cooked by them at their apartment. They spent most of the day preparing the meal. Hooman and Flip were pleased with the results and so were Bill and Suzanne. There was more than enough food to go around. Hooman later read some passages from Divane Hafez, a special Persian book.

The meal was cooked with heartfelt appreciation for the warmth and kindness that Bill and Suzanne showed them.

Creamy Panna Cota

Creamy Panna Cota

Swedish Meal

Swedish potato salad, tomatoes, stuffed peppers, fresh pomegranate & Kuku Sabzi

Iranian Meal

Table with watermelon, Iranian candies, cider, pomegranate, and the Divine Hafez

Bill and Suzanne’s experience is one of many that FFIS host families have from hosting incoming international students. Each experience is different, but the fellowship and friendships created through this program are common.

If you are interested in possibly becoming a host family for a few days when the international student first arrives, contact UO Liaison Becky Megerssa at ffis@uoregon.edu or complete this online application.

 

Chinese Student Appreciates Having an FFIS Host Family

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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 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.

Read about what a University of Oregon student from China experienced as a participant in this program:

I’m from China. I didn’t think I would be nervous because this is not the first time for me to go abroad. However, I went to all of the places with either friends or my parents until now.

Things are totally different with what I imagined. Although things are really different, I still didn’t feel uncomfortable. That’s all thanks to my “host family”. When I arrived here in Eugene, I saw my host parents Deanna and Rod holding a sign with my name on it. On the way to their home, they asked lots of questions to get to know me better.

At home, Deanna made dinner for me – the best dinner I had here. She also prepared a basket with notebook, pen, mug and popcorn in it. She prepared all of the things for me. I really felt I ended a long trip and went back home, rather than traveled to a totally different country I have never been to. I could never forget that night.

After that, they took me to orientation and helped me get a SIM card. Although their work is very busy, they cared for me a lot. They also took me to the beach on the weekend. I really enjoyed the week I stayed in their home. Then Rod helped me with my apartment. He helped me check everything in my room and move everything to my apartment.

After all of this, it’s not done. They invited me for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They really helped me get into the culture. I didn’t know they will exchange the gifts, so I didn’t prepare anything. However, they already help me prepared for that. We opened the gifts put on our lap and others could steal it. When I opened a package, Deana knew I didn’t like that, so she steals it to make me get another one. Finally, I got a blanket. Deana knew I don’t like the color, so she bought me a new one. I was really surprised when she gave it to me!

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. You can also complete an online host family application here.