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.
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.”