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.

Hooman and Flip Cooking

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

China Map

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.

Roger Ludeman – FFIS Volunteer and Steering Committee Member

A born and raised Midwesterner (South Dakota), Roger Ludeman has found that his life journey has taken him to over 60 countries. He attended college in his hometown and became a school music teacher. In 1965 he was selected to participate in a U.S. government sponsored program to study counseling and psychology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Pitt) where he received his second master’s degree and a Ph.D. in counselor education/educational psychology. He worked as a dean of students at the Penn State Beaver Campus and The University of Toledo before moving back to the heartland to become Vice President for Student Affairs at Bemidji State University in northern Minnesota. From there he moved to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he became Assistant Chancellor for Student Affairs where he served until retirement in 2001.

Over the years Roger’s interests shifted more toward international education. While at UW-Whitewater he oversaw their study abroad program in Sweden. He served on the first NAFSA (Educators International) committee that developed the guidelines for health and safety in study abroad. He also worked to internationalize his professional associations, ACPA-College Student Educators International and NASPA-Student Affairs Adminstrators in Higher Education. Roger created the NASPA International Symposium in 1996, the NASPA International Exchange Program and helped initiate the global colloquium of the ACPA Commission on the Global Dimensions of Student Development.

roger ludeman & ali zelan from turkey

He has written several book chapters and articles on student affairs and services. His latest book, Student Affairs and Services in Higher Education: Global Foundations, Issues and Best Practices, Third Edition, is being published by UNESCO (over 200 authors coming from about 100 countries). It is a special writing project of the organization that Ludeman founded, the International Association of Student Affairs and Services (IASAS). IASAS has over 1,000 members from nearly 100 countries.

Roger is a Fulbright Scholar, having been awarded grants to teach and do research in Germany (1993), Japan (1887) and South Africa (2001-02) where he and his wife, Sandy, lived for a year. He credits these experiences with inspiring him to travel and study globally. All of this has contributed to his interest in international students and global education. He and his wife retired to Eugene in 2002 and soon found out about the Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS). He served on the FFIS Steering Committee in the early to mid-2000s, serving as Chair for a year. He left the committee for several years but continued to serve as a Conversation Friend. He has just rejoined the Committee.

Being a FFIS volunteer and Steering Committee member is a natural extension of Roger’s work in international education during his work life. He believes that the Conversation Friend program is the Jewel in the FFIS “crown.” He has had conversation friends from China, South Korea, Turkey and an ethnic Tibetan from Nepal. Just like our own students, each is unique and proud of her/his home country. Conversations translate into activities and, eventually, lifetime friendships. He likes being called “dad” again.

FFIS News for January 2019

ffis news

A new year is here and it’s time to catch up on what’s new with FFIS:

Conversation Friend Program: Sixty-three of the 68 Conversation Friend program students have been matched! We can always use more volunteers now and in the future. If you’re interested in learning more or participating, send an e-mail to FFIS.ConversationFriends@gmail.com.

Winter Homestay: Twenty-six new international students enrolled for the winter term and three of those students experienced a short-term homestay with FFIS members.

The students aren’t the only ones who appreciate the warm hospitality provided by FFIS host families. Their parents are also very appreciative that their son or daughter has a second family providing a safe and secure environment in Lane County.

Read what a father from Turkey had to say about how FFIS’ homestay program helped to relieve his fears of sending his daughter to school so far away from her home – Turkish Father is Thankful to This FFIS Host Family for Taking Such Great Care of His Daughter!

Spring Homestay: It’s not too soon to start thinking about the Spring Homestay program. Six exchange students from Taiwan and Japan have already signed up for the homestay experience from March 23 to 30. The International Student Orientation begins on March 28. If you’re interested in hosting a student, send an e-mail to ffis@uoregon.edu.

2018 welcome picnic

Welcome Picnic: Our annual Welcome Picnic will be on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Alton Baker Park ramadas. FFIS members and incoming international students from the University of Oregon and Lane Community College are invited to attend.  You can view pictures from the 2018 picnic here.

Mark Your 2019 Calendar
Spring Homestay – March 23 to 30
Fall Homestay Matching – July and August
Fall Homestay – Sept. 14 to 18
Welcome Picnic – Saturday, Sept. 21 at noon at the Alton Baker Park Ramadas
Conversation Friend Matching – October

FFIS Steering Committee – Thank you to Jean McClain, Kent Henricksen, and Ray Slaughter for recently joining our committee! Thank you also to Steve and Shirley Gilbreath, who retired in December after many years of service with FFIS and the Steering Committee!

FFIS is comprised entirely of local volunteers who believe in and support our mission. The Steering Committee meets 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. Anyone is welcome to attend. If you’d like to get on the agenda, send an e-mail in advance to FFIS President Matthew Fisher at ffiseugene@gmail.com. We welcome anyone who wants to join the Committee and help to build our organization!

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
Fundraising Committee Chair – Deanna Brandt
Media Committee ChairRick Obst

Conversation Friend Coordinators:
June Brooks (541-714-7735 or ffis.conversationfriends@gmail.com)
Craig Biersdorff (541-517-7652 or ffis.conversationfriends@gmail.com)

Steering Committee Members – Cindee Robertson, Jean McClain, Kent Henricksen, Paul Harvey, Ray Slaughter, Roger Ludeman.

U of O Liaison – Becky Megerssa
LCC Liaison – Tomomi Kurosaki


Turkish Father is Thankful to This FFIS Host Family for Taking Such Great Care of His Daughter!

Map of Turkey

International students aren’t the only ones who are nervous about traveling so far from their familiar home and culture to study at the University of Oregon.  Their parents also worry, since they are too distant to be able to quickly lend help and support should their child encounter difficulties.

FFIS’ home stay program is much more than simply hosting incoming international students for a few days to help them acclimate to America, Eugene/Springfield, and the University.   FFIS volunteers usually become interim parents, offering ongoing advice and assistance for the student they’ve hosted.

That warm welcome and hospitality alleviates not only the students’ fears, but also those of their parents back home.  This letter to the FFIS Steering Committee from a father in Turkey helps to illustrate how impactful the home stay program can be.

To the Steering Committee of the Friendship Foundation for International Students,

My daughter is an exchange student at the University of Oregon from L’Université Lumière Lyon 2, France.

Turkish Student, June Brooks

I am writing this letter to express my sincere gratitude to your organization for doing such a great job for the incoming foreign students. Having graduated from a high school in her home country Turkey, my daughter started her higher education in France in the fall of 2016. It was a big event not only for her but also for us, the parents since it was the first time she left the family to live alone in a foreign country. But we were content with the feeling of her being only a few hours away in a place not so unfamiliar to our “little” girl.

Last year when she decided to go to the U.S. for a year of exchange, it was a much bigger event for us. The U.S. was so far away when you look from this part of the world.  We had no possibility to reach her in a few hours or days if she needed us. I knew things there were different: the systems, the tastes, the looks, the layouts, the behaviors, the thoughts, sizes, habits, namely every little thing would be new and require an adjustment. We didn’t know what her new life would offer her: happiness or not. Namely, the situation was uncontrollable, novel and unpredictable.  As parents, we had every reason to feel stressed.

Luckily, we had a host family in Eugene coordinated in advance by your volunteer organization. The moment Mr. Dan Kaye met my daughter at the airport upon her arrival and Mrs. June Brooks welcomed her at their sweet home with warm heart we said goodbye to our parental worries.

During the week of orientation at the University, June and Dan became her new parents and eased her entrance to a new life, which could have been very hard and difficult otherwise. They give a pleasant and sincere environment, so she never felt left alone or abandoned.  They guided her through the City and the University, so she never considered that she was a stranger or lost.  They provided some of the stuff she needed at her apartment and showed her where to get more, so she learned that the coming days would be easy and simple.

Photo #1

Not only in the first week, but June and Dan also continued their parental role in the ongoing months. They kept in contact, met occasionally at breakfasts or dinners, and never missed special occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas tree decoration that “families” typically got together.  You can imagine how we took a breath knowing how comfortable she was at a distance of ten thousand kilometers away from us and that our co-parents were giving a safe and secure environment to our daughter.

I need to add a few words about the University of Oregon, the City of Eugene, and the Eugeneans. Although UO houses more than 20.000 students, Ducks as they call themselves, their actual number is more than this since the City literally and figuratively embraces the University. I can’t think of the City without the University and vice versa.

Maybe, Oregon Ducks, the U.S.-wide famous football team of the University characterizes the unity of the City and University. I was shocked when my daughter told me that at the opening night of the football season, the Autzen Stadium audience was close to 60,000 in attendance.  The UO is a big part of the City itself and every Eugenean is a Duck. This unity provides a safe environment and trustable people for the students. UO most definitely must be one of the best choices for exchange students and parents.

Actually, the Friendship Foundation for International Students is the proof of the paragraph above – a group of Eugene volunteers working for the benefit and well-being of international Ducks.  Your efforts are appreciated by parents from all over the world. Thank you.

Thank You 01

Happy New Year and Thank You to All of Our FFIS Volunteers!

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.

Happy New Year

Dear FFIS Volunteers,

Happy New Year!  The FFIS Steering Committee is very appreciative of your commitment, time, efforts, and sacrifices in truly embodying our mission – fostering goodwill between the local community and UO international students, alumni, scholars, and their families.

Thank You 01

Your combined efforts over the years as FFIS volunteers have helped to impact the lives of literally hundreds of incoming international students. Those contributions can’t be measured. Your investment in their lives will pay dividends for many years in the future, often in ways that no one could foresee.

You volunteered without expectation of fame, glory, or community appreciation. Your efforts were more deeply motivated, and everyone’s lives that you’ve touched (directly and indirectly) are the better for it. THANK YOU for your service!

Thank You 02


This Japanese Student Really Appreciated Her FFIS Conversation Friend

Japan 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 Japanese student wrote about her FFIS Conversation Friend experience:

I am really lucky because you are my conversation friend.  We talked about lots of things and you taught me various cultural differences.  I really like to go shopping with you.  And I can describe the store and shopping differences between here and Japan easily and clearly.

You tried to understand my poor English every time and it was great chance for me to practice English.  Recently, some people told me that I improved my English. I know you helped me to improve my English.  And I really appreciate that you introduced me to your family and friends.  It was really great time to see lots of new people. I really like your family, especially your cute nieces and nephews.

Interested in becoming an FFIS Conversation Friend (if you’re not already)?  Read “A Conversation About the Conversation Friend Program” and then contact Conversation Friend Coordinator Craig Biersdorff at FFIS.ConversationFriends@gmail.com or 541-517-7652.

FFIS News for November 2018

ffis news

Fall is here and the holidays are fast approaching. We’d like to update you on some of the FFIS activities the Steering Committee is working on.

Share Thanksgiving (Nov. 22)Thanksgiving is a very traditional American holiday. Thirty-five international students signed up to share this special day with an FFIS family. Seven families have offered to host 13 students, leaving 22 students hoping for the opportunity. Students usually feel more comfortable if another student is with them, so ideally FFIS families could invite two or more students. If you’re interested, complete the online application and we’ll be in touch.

Thanksgiving Dinner at an FFIS Volunteer’s Home

International Thanksgiving Celebration (Nov. 18) – The international student community in Eugene and Springfield is invited to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner on Sunday, Nov. 18, beginning at 4:00 pm in the Morse Event Center on the Northwest Christian University campus near the UO. Last year they had several hundred students from UO, LCC, NWCU, and elsewhere attend. The organizers asked the FFIS Steering Committee if any of our members might be interested in volunteering to work as servers that afternoon. If you’re interested, or would like to learn more, send an e-mail to Karen Head at khead@nwcu.edu.

The turkey is almost ready for hungry UO international students to eat!

Conversation Friend Program – Conversation Friends are still needed. Fifty-nine international students have applied and 48 have been matched to date. If you’re interested in volunteering, or know someone who might be, contact either June Brooks (541-914-7735) or Craig Biersdorff (541-517-7652) or send an e-mail to ffis.conversationfriends@gmail.com.

Winter Home Stay – The influx of incoming international students for the winter term is not large, but there may be a need for additional FFIS families to host prior to the start of classes in early January. If you’re interested, send an e-mail to ffis@uoregon.edu.

Fisherman's Market in Eugene, Oregon

Fundraising Opportunity @ Fisherman’s Market (Nov. 12, Veterans Day) – The second Monday of every month is when we have the chance to enjoy some great seafood and help FFIS financially. Print out the voucher below and bring it with you to Fisherman’s Market this Monday (11/12). Give it to them when you order something off of their menu, purchase some of their delicious frozen takeout meals to prepare at home, or buy some seafood to serve at Thanksgiving or another meal. Twenty percent of your purchase will come back to FFIS to help support our programs. Can’t make it on Nov. 12? Mark Dec. 10 on your calendar and make plans to visit Fisherman’s Market at 830 W. 7th Street then. Additional parking is available on the north side of 7th Street if needed.

Fisherman's Market FundraiserFundraising Opportunity @ Mosaic (Nov. 26 – Dec. 2) Susan Costa is an FFIS member and owner of Mosaic Fair Trade Collection. The store sources products from producers in developing countries who receive living wages and have safe working conditions with no child labor. KVAL aired a story recently about Susan and her fair trade store.

Mosaic Logo

During the week after Thanksgiving (Nov. 26 to Dec. 2), Susan is offering to donate 20% of her sales to FFIS. Stop by her store at 28 East Broadway. It’s just east of Voodoo Donuts and Kesey Square and she validates parking in the nearby city garages. Print out the  flyer below and present it when you do some Christmas shopping. Call the store at 541-344-4000 if you have any questions.

FFIS Fundraiser at Mosaic

Thank you to all of our volunteers who open their hearts and homes and provide a friendly environment for international students in our community!

Getting the Word Out About FFIS – Although FFIS has been around for almost 70 years, it’s not well known in our local community. Two FFIS volunteers recently let us know about potential opportunities to share what we do: 1) an Acts of Kindness segment on KMTR with news anchor Jody Reynosa, and 2) to give a brief presentation at a Eugene Chamber of Commerce Greeters meeting in 2019. We’re working on converting these opportunities into realities.

If you know of ways in which we can spread the word about FFIS and its programs, send an e-mail to ffiseugene@gmail.com. We’ll let you know when to tune in to KMTR as we learn more!

FFIS’ Share Thanksgiving Program Creates Fond Memories (And Full Stomachs)

FFIS Steering Committee – FFIS is comprised entirely of local volunteers who believe in and support our mission. The Steering Committee meets at noon 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 downtown Hilton and Lane County Courthouse. Anyone is welcome to attend. If you’d like to get on the agenda, send an e-mail in advance to FFIS President Matthew Fisher at ffiseugene@gmail.com. We welcome anyone who wants to join the Committee and help to build our organization!

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 & TreasurerMatthew Fisher (541-255-0626 or mfisher333@gmail.com)
SecretarySuzanne Dassenko

Conversation Friend Coordinators:
June Brooks (541-714-7735 or ffisconversationfriends@gmail.com)
Craig Biersdorff (541-517-7652 or ffisconversationfriends@gmail.com)

Steering Committee MembersCindee Robertson, Deanna Brandt, Paul Harvey, Rick Obst, Roger Ludeman, and Steve Gilbreath

U of O LiaisonBecky Megerssa
LCC LiaisonTomomi Kurosaki


FFIS Host Families Share Their Thoughts About Hosting a University of Oregon International Student

Joy & Susie with Susie's Parents

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.

FFIS host families hosted 95 incoming international students prior to the start of the fall term.  This is what some of the host families had to say about their experience hosting an incoming international student:

What was the most rewarding part of hosting?

 Getting to know these two incredible young women. Hearing about their lives at home and their plans for their futures. We also love their excitement and their joy about being in Eugene and about to start their studies at the U of O. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

 Shota was excellent and was very easy to have in the house. It is always enjoyable being the landing place for students when they are first arriving.

 Meeting new people and sharing cultures and food.

 Meeting people from all over the world, making new friends, learning their culture, but most of all blessing them by easing their tensions and anxieties of starting school in a new country and school.

 Making new friends.

Greeting at the Airport

Learning new perspectives, from the lens of another country. Meeting young people from other countries. Learning about other cultures.

 Getting to know this remarkable young woman from Uzbekistan and admiring her intelligence, maturity and sense of humor. She taught us so much about the history of the Silk Road, the Mongols and Genghis Khan. We enjoy learning about other cultures and maintaining relationships with the students while they’re in Eugene and beyond. We also love having them share their cuisine with us.

 Learning about other cultures.

 Learning about new cultures and countries and how they do things.

Getting to know this wonderful woman from France and spending time with her, hiking, showing her around Eugene and getting her set up at the U of O.

 We always love meeting people from other countries and cultures.

Bike Riding with Katherin from Peru for Post

 The opportunity to learn about the student & their culture.

Our student was very sweet and appreciative of our help and hospitality. She enjoyed shopping and chose her purchases very carefully. Since I like shopping, this was an activity we could share.

 Our student is so nice!

 The whole experience was a delight.

 Knowing that I helped someone.

 Getting acquainted with each student and learning about their life, home, and culture.

 There are usually more students wanting a homestay experience than there are available host families. FFIS provides short-term homestay experiences for the fall, winter, and spring terms. If you’re not yet a volunteer, but are interested in learning more about the program, read the FAQ page or e-mail FFIS@UOregon.edu.

Suzanne & Bill Dassenko