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.