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.