This U of O Student From Hong Kong Had A Wonderful FFIS Homestay Experience!

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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.

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

I am really thankful for having such a friendly and generous couple, Larry and Kristi, as my host family during my exchange in the U of O. They are so nice that they do not only offer help to me during the first few days after my arrival, but also throughout my school terms. I truly appreciate them for helping me so much and treating me like their friend and family member.

I arrived in Eugene on the 31st of Dec, perhaps one of the busiest days of the year. As soon as I arrived, I was so surprised and delighted that I saw a welcoming handicraft hanging on the door. It was the warmest welcome ever. I felt really comfortable, as I could feel that they’re seriously looking forward to meeting me. On New Year’s Eve, they even took me to their friend’s place and we celebrated New Year together

After my school started, I still had a lot of stuff to deal with. I always asked for their opinion as I was really unfamiliar with the environment in Eugene. They always provided me with the best and most reliable answers. Also, they are always willing to give me a ride to different places, such as the grocery store and the mall, which is really appreciated.

Besides, I appreciate that they like to share their thoughts with me. I can always get new insights from them. Kristi also knows Asian culture very well. She definitely delivered a lot of new knowledge to me. I am so glad that I could have the chance to talk with a foreigner about my own culture.

It is my pleasure to have such a warm home in Eugene, I extremely appreciate their generosity and their warm hospitality. I would like to thank them once again.

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.

An FFIS Volunteer Shares Her Experience Hosting a U of O Student from France

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The Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) provides short-term homestay programs at the beginning of the fall, winter, and spring terms.  Incoming University of Oregon international students stay in a local community member’s home for 3-5 days.  They then move to permanent housing in an apartment or dormitory.

In this post, FFIS volunteer June Brooks shares her experience hosting UO international student Lucile de Boisson from France.

How and when did you get involved with FFIS? I have been involved as a host parent for international students since 1989. We became involved through a friend who had been a host parent for a number of years. In the past 21 years, we have probably had around 20 students.

How many times have you participated in FFIS’s Homestay program? If more than once, what other countries were your Homestay students from? Our students have come from all over Europe (England, Scotland, Norway, Denmark, France, Germany, Cyprus, Romania, Austria and Italy) as well as from Australia. Some of them have stayed at the U of O for only one term while others have completed entire degrees here, undergraduate as well as graduate degrees. I am still in close contact with my first student, a young man from Norway, as well as about 10 others. My husband and I were actually able to visit five of our former students while we traveled throughout northern Europe. It was certainly wonderful to see so many of them, to meet their spouses and their children or in two cases, their parents.

What did you enjoy (and/or continue to enjoy) most about your experiences with the Homestay program? The thing that I enjoy most about the program is getting to know the students and having the opportunity to show them around the Eugene area and then around Oregon. We always make it a point to take them to Crater Lake right away in September since the northern entrance to the National Park closes at the first snowfall and sometimes doesn’t open again until late June. We always take them to the coast. We also like to take them to places right here in town that they might not know about (Spencer’s Butte, Mt. Pisgah, the Bijou movie theater). Having them over for dinner on a regular basis, taking them to U of O sporting events, and taking them shopping are other things that are always enjoyable.

Please briefly explain how you may have helped Lucile make that transition from French to American culture? Lucile is one of the most outgoing, vivacious students we have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. She jumped into the American culture and all the opportunities at the U of O with no prompting from us! She has gone sea kayaking at the coast, rock climbing at Smith Rock, snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor, gone whitewater rafting on the McKenzie and she has climbed South Sister to watch the sunrise – just to name a few things she has done in the three months she has been here! She has seen more of Oregon and has enjoyed more of its natural wonders than people who have lived here their entire lives.

What was the most memorable thing you learned about Lucile’s way of life in France? I think that the most important thing we have learned from our students over the years is that the things that we as human beings have in common are much, much greater than any differences we may have because we speak a different language or have a different religion. France is not so very different from the U.S., so there hasn’t been one thing that stands out that we have learned about the French culture from Lucile.

 Was there anything you discovered about your own culture while hosting?  Most of my students comment on how friendly Americans are – how warm and outgoing we are. Depending on where they come from, they see our infrastructure and our way of doing things as very efficient and commendable, or very antiquated. It is interesting to see how that opinion changes depending on where the students hail from.

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.

This Chinese PhD Student Appreciates His FFIS Conversation Friend

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

This is what a Chinese student wrote about his experiences with his FFIS Conversation Friend:

After moving to this new place to begin my Finance PhD at the University of Oregon, I felt so lonely and had a hard time adjusting myself to this strange town. This loneliness ended when I got an email from David talking about our first meeting as conversation friends. The first meeting went well at a coffee shop.

 He is like my father, warming my heart in the cold winter. He is very helpful in my life and is willing to help me anyway that he can. His help to me is much appreciated. And he is so nice and patient, always picking me up at my apartment and spending time with me during his busy schedule.

 His job is very close to my major and we always have a lot of things to talk about. He is a person who I admire—smart and gentlemanly. I always tell my parents and my friends how lucky I was to have the chance to know David. I want to say thank you to him and let him know how grateful I am for his help and time.

 To learn more about the FFIS Conversation Friend Program, contact FFIS Conversation Friend Coordinator June Brooks at 541-513-4086 or JuneEBrooks@gmail.com.

A Host Family To Me Means Having A Second Family Away From Home

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The Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) provides short-term homestay programs at the beginning of the fall, winter, and spring terms.  Incoming University of Oregon international students stay in a local community member’s home for 3-5 days.  They then move to permanent housing in an apartment or dormitory.

This is what a Mexican student wrote about her FFIS homestay experience:

A host family to me means having a second family away from home, and also feeling safe and loved among nice people. Experiencing a new culture, settling down in a new country, and discovering the astonishing natural beauty of Oregon would not have been possible without my host family.

I have to start off by saying THANK YOU SO MUCH PETE and VINNIE!! Not only did we spend incredible times together, but both of you were also there for me all the time.   Some of the things we did together that I am most grateful for and I will never forget are:

  • movie nights, cooking and having dinner together
  • amazing evenings going to concerts
  • picking me up at the airport
  • visiting the Cascades
  • helping me with my school projects
  • sharing our knowledge and experiences
  • walking the dog
  • meeting the neighbors and making new friends
  • listening to my stories about my country and my family, and many more.

I am so glad I got the amazing opportunity to meet you!

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.

This Russian Student Calls Oregon Her Second Home Thanks to Her FFIS Homestay Family!

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The Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) provides short-term homestay programs at the beginning of the fall, winter, and spring terms.  Incoming University of Oregon international students stay in a local community member’s home for 3-5 days.  They then move to permanent housing in an apartment or dormitory.

This is what a Russian student wrote about her FFIS homestay experience:

Coming to Oregon from Russia all alone could be intimidating and challenging. I am so glad, lucky and grateful for the FFIS program! I applied to have a temporary host family in Eugene, because I didn’t know anyone or anything about the city when I was in Russia, waiting for my departure to the United States.

Paul and Susie were very welcoming and supportive and have become more than just “temporary hosts” or “volunteers”; they became my close friends and someone I can come to with questions or problems. I like to call them my Oregon parents. We have a lot in common and therefore there are always things we discuss, laugh about, and share. 

Susie and Paul have also hosted at least 18 foreign students before me and I got a chance to meet some of them who haven’t graduated yet. We are like a big international family. We meet every term for breakfast and catch up on happenings in each other’s lives, go shopping together, help each other if something is wrong.

It’s great to have this kind of support when you are in a completely new place, speaking a different language, away from your family and friends from back home. Thanks to Paul and Susie and our international family, I can call Oregon my second home. 

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

A Chinese Student Shares Her Thoughts About FFIS’ Conversation Friend Program

China Map

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

This is what a Chinese student wrote about her experiences with her FFIS Conversation Friend:

I am not a socially active person and I sometimes have trouble making friends. Therefore, I do not have too many friends, even Chinese friends. However, last term I met you through the conversation friend program. At the beginning, I could not believe what I saw from the email. “I am going to have a conversation friend!!” I thought. However, I was hesitating. My English was poor. I was not good at finding topics while chatting…I might be silly when I meet you!

However, I decided to meet you on Tuesday. I remember it was January 13th. You were extremely kind and you relieved all of my tensions. I really enjoyed chatting with you. After that you brought me to many places in Eugene that I did not know – 5th Street Public Market, Oakway Center, Pancake House, Yogurt Extreme, BJ’s and so on. I know you were trying to let me know more about this city. Without you, I will probably still be that kind of girl who hides inside the dorm.

Because of you, I know a lot about American culture. We celebrated your birthday with your family and that was my first time to really get closer to an American family. I felt so warm in your family! I was very shy, but your family let me feel the warmth just like in my home country. Everyone treated me so well! Those anxieties of being an international student have been eliminated. You also introduced me to a lot of good events, which I wouldn’t have attended before I met you!

You are definitely the best American friend of mine!! I am not good at writing, but I am trying to describe my appreciation to you. I do not know how long the conversation friend program will last, but I hope we will be friends and still hang out together even if this program finishes! Thank you and bring my best wishes to your great family!!

To learn more about the FFIS Conversation Friend Program, contact FFIS Conversation Friend Coordinator June Brooks at 541-513-4086 or JuneEBrooks@gmail.com.

This Japanese Student Loved Her FFIS Homestay Experience!

Japan Map

The Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) provides short-term homestay programs at the beginning of the fall, winter, and spring terms.  Incoming University of Oregon international students stay in a local community member’s home for 3-5 days.  They then move to permanent housing in an apartment or dormitory.

This is what a Japanese student wrote about her FFIS homestay experience:

I really appreciate this Friendship Foundation program which gives me an opportunity to meet such a great host family. When I first arrived here, I did not know anything about the city, university and how to start my new life.

But they helped by showing me around the city, going shopping, and acclimating myself to life here. After the university started and I moved to the residence hall, they often invited me for dinner and I especially enjoyed spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with them. It was so nice to be able to experience traditional American ceremonies and actually know what they are like. They let me join their family traditions and I enjoyed a huge, tasty dinner as well.

I really appreciate them for giving me a lot of love just like I was their daughter. The most memorable time for me was just chilling at their home and watching a football game together. They always made me feel so relieved, which I have never felt other than my home in Japan and I remember I fell asleep on the sofa every time I visited their home. I cannot thank them enough for all the help, love, and the great foods they have given me. I am sure they are the best host family for me! Thank you so much for everything and I love you so much.

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.

A Nepalese Student’s Experience With the FFIS Homestay Program

Nepal Map

The Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) provides short-term homestay programs at the beginning of the fall, winter, and spring terms.  Incoming University of Oregon international students stay in a local community member’s home for 3-5 days.  They then move to permanent housing in an apartment or dormitory.

This is what a student from Nepal wrote about her FFIS homestay experience:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my host family for the warm welcome they gave me when I first arrived here in Eugene. I still remember Ellen’s voice calling my name at the Eugene airport.   She made me feel very comfortable at her home. I am really grateful to her and her husband for their hospitality. I had a wonderful time at her place.  She helped me to become familiar with American culture by addressing all my curiosities regarding it.

It was very kind of her to host two international students at the same time. She took us for a bike ride around Eugene and taught us safety rules for riding a bike in Eugene.   She has even loaned me a bike and I am still using it to commute. This bike has been very useful for me, as it not only saves my time, but also keeps me fit.  As I am from a landlocked country, I was very excited when she took us to the Pacific Coast.

Even after I started living in my apartment, she frequently asked if she could help me with anything.  Because of her, my transition into a new place and culture was easier than I had expected.  I am lucky to have a host family like hers.

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.

What a Chinese Student Thinks About her FFIS Conversation Friend

China Map

The FFIS Conversation Friend Program creates deep and lasting memories for international students who get this experience. This is what a female Chinese student wrote about her FFIS Conversation Friend:

You’re pretty! It was the first impression you gave me. I’m jealous that you’re taller and slimmer than me! Just kidding.

Although we just met several times, I really like being with you. I guess you may think I’m quiet? Actually I’m not quiet in my heart, but I don’t know why I don’t talk a lot and it’s hard for me to speak loudly. Anyway, I want to let you know I see you as my friend.

I really appreciate your enthusiastic contributions to non-profit organizations, such as the one to do with women which taught me how to wrap presents and this one – FFIS. And I remember you delivered a speech about disabled women on campus. All of this you’ve done encourage me to learn the rights I should have as a lady and know those people who need help. Thank you for your kind behavior!

Suzanne Dassenko – FFIS Volunteer, Steering Committee Member and Secretary

Suzanne & Bill Dassenko

Suzanne Dassenko and her husband Bill joined FFIS in 2010 when they hosted a young lady from Singapore before the winter term started.  She joined the Steering Committee in 2011 and has been a very active member and volunteer since.

My friend, who hosted students for 35+ years, told me I’d like it and that I’d be good at it,” said Suzanne.  “She was right!”

In less than eight years, Bill and Suzanne have hosted more than 30 students from Singapore, Denmark, Finland, Germany, France, Kenya, China, Taiwan, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nepal, Brazil, Turkey, Japan, India, Morocco, Ukraine, and Catalonia.

Suzanne is a native Oregonian from Bandon who moved to Lane County in 1992.  She is now retired after working jobs as a graphic designer, research & development for a publishing company, editor/assistant editor of several publications, and as a teacher from kindergarten through 10th grade and at the university level.  She holds several degrees, including an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language.

Photo Collage for Posting

What do you enjoy most about being an FFIS Volunteer? Creating a welcoming and safe place for international students and learning about the different countries and cultures. Plus, the more than 30 students we have hosted, have helped me to adjust to having an “empty nest” and let me continue to be a Mom!

Why did you join the Steering Committee? I was at first curious as to what it was all about and then got “sucked in!” It’s a great group of people to work with and rewarding to make a difference in so many student’s lives.

What are some of your favorite memories of international students that you’ve met? I love having students sitting around my table, enjoying a meal and conversation together, who are from countries from all over the world.  One student brought us a special food treat from his country, only to discover that it is also a treat in two other countries on the other side of the world—just has a different name.

And it’s always fun to get reactions from students when they first arrive at our log house out in the woods. Many of them live in high-rise apartments in the city—so a totally new experience for them. And of course, my husband enjoys showing the photos of some of the critters we’ve had visit our yard in recent years—raccoon, fox, cougar and bear.

We have also hosted some of the parents of our international students. Even though most of them speak very little English, it has been a fun experience to have them as guests in our home.

An added bonus is being invited to several weddings as special guests – one in Singapore and one in Ecuador. And I have several international grandchildren that have arrived or will soon, that I hope to visit in the coming year.

Anything else that you would like to share about your FFIS experiences?

Being an FFIS host family has enlarged our heart and shrunk our world. I’d recommend it to anyone!