What Was the Most Rewarding Part of Your FFIS Homestay?

Greeting at the Airport

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.

This fall 57 students stayed with 45 host families.  FFIS surveys the students after their stay. This is what some of them had to say about their host family and the Homestay Program:

What was the most rewarding part of your FFIS Homestay?

  • Peaceful air, a great bedroom, and delicious foods,
  • They took me to the Oregon Coast, a restaurant, and shopping. It was an exciting time for me.
  • My host family was very kind and kept in contact with me.
  • They always worried about me and helped me when I needed it.
  • They cooked very good dinners. And we have same hobby to watch soccer games. We talked a lot about soccer.
  • They are really nice to me.
  • My host family was really friendly and hospitable. They helped me a lot in finding a place to stay and getting furniture.
  • My host helped me adapt to Eugene and made me feel accepted in the community. She gave me a brief explanation about the city & culture, and acted as a perfect mother for me in the three days I stayed with her.
  • My host family treated me as their own family member. They helped me to find an apartment and arrange shopping for my apartment. We cooked wonderful western and Indonesian food together. They brought me to the store with a very affordable price since they know I am a Fulbright student with a limited budget. They gave me some stuff of their own, so I don’t need to buy them for a couple of weeks. They tried very hard in introducing me to be survive as a student in the USA. I am lucky to know them. They are my angels.
  • My homestay parents helped me out a lot! Especially after the program ended. They are great people who I cannot thank enough.
  • Meeting new people from a different culture.
  • I’ve learned how American people live, how nice people are in Eugene, and how to get used to life in the US. It feels like I’m a member of their family.
  • I was nervous when I arrived in Eugene. They welcomed me warmly and always cared about me after I moved to the dorm. With their help, I don’t feel lonely. I appreciate FFIS.
  • I loved meeting Denise and her family. Everyone was very kind, welcoming and helpful.
  • I felt like I never left home. Katie and Bob have just become like family to me. They are my family in Eugene.
  • I can experience the real American lifestyle thanks to my kind host family.
  • Having dinner with the whole family was the most memorable part. And also I feel like they really care me, because they took me to buy lots of stuff. 
  • Getting to know good people in Eugene.

There are usually more students wanting a homestay experience than there are available host families. 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.

FFIS Homestay Program

FFIS Homestay Program Creates Friendships That Bridge Time and Distance

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“Hi Dad!  How’s it going?”  That was the Facebook message that I read from an international student that my wife and I hosted six years ago.  I replied with news about what we’d been up to lately.  She answered by saying that she felt close to us and asked if she could visit us next month on her vacation if we were available.

FFIS volunteers know that hosting an international student can create a special bond that lasts for years.  They become like a second family, making students feel like they’re at a second home instead of living far from their own home.  It’s not unusual for students to return for a visit or for FFIS volunteers to travel and stay with their student’s family.  Each story is unique, but with the common thread of deep friendships established that bridge time and distance.

Become an FFIS Volunteer Host

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 host not just one student, but two or more.  What do they know that others don’t?

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.

To learn more about the FFIS short-term homestay program, visit the FAQ page, send an e-mail to FFIS@UOregon.edu, or complete an online application.  The homestay dates for the spring, fall, and winter terms are shown here.

FFIS Homestay Students Ride Snowmobiles for the First Time

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Donia from Egypt enjoying snowmobiling for her first time

University of Oregon international students don’t know what to expect when they first arrive in Eugene to begin their studies at the University of Oregon.  Donia from Turkey and Yohan from France certainly didn’t expect that they’d be riding snowmobiles for their first time just a few days after their plane landed.

This experience is but one of many varied adventures that newly arriving international students enjoy if they’re fortunate enough to be placed with a local FFIS home stay volunteer.  The hosts usually become like a second family to the students as they adjust to American culture, foods, and education system.  The students may stay with the FFIS volunteer for a week or less, but the memories and friendships will last a lifetime.

Snowmobiling 02
Yohan from France enjoying the snow with his FFIS host family

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 host not just one student, but two or more.  What do they know that others don’t?

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.

To learn more about the FFIS short-term homestay program, visit the FAQ page, send an e-mail to FFIS@UOregon.edu, or complete an online application.  The homestay dates for the spring, fall, and winter terms are shown here.

Nervous UO International Student From Asia Meets His FFIS Host Family

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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.

Australian Homestay Student Keeps in Touch With His FFIS Host Family

Skye & Suzanne

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.

FFIS Volunteer and Steering Committee Secretary Suzanne Dassenko shares her story about being a worried “Mom” after she and her husband Bill hosted an Australian student for a few days:

We hosted a young man, Skye, from Australia, for just one term this past fall. After leaving Eugene he was going to travel in South America. Since I was his “American Mom”, I was a little concerned about him traveling in some of the countries. I asked him if he would check in occasionally so that I would know that he was ok. And he did.

About once a month, he would find wifi that would enable him to send some photos of where he was currently traveling and let me know that he was OK. I heard from him just several days ago when he told me that he was finally headed back home to Australia.

Skye in Machu Picchu

This is what he wrote: “Tonight, I board my plane back to Australia so that brings to an end 7 months of travelling/studying abroad. I just want to thank you again for not only being a part of it, but also giving me some of the best memories of my time spent away. I can honestly say I miss you guys. Hope you are well and I’ll speak to you when I’m back in my homeland of Australia. Regards, Your Aussie son.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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New Zealand Student Shares Her Experience in the FFIS Homestay Program

New Zealand Map

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 what this University of Oregon student from New Zealand had to say about her FFIS homestay experience:

Patricia was the most wonderful host I could ever have wished for. She went above and beyond what might have been expected as a host mom. It wasn’t long after she first picked me up from the train station, with her dog Shambhala, that she became not only my host, but also my good friend.

Our first stop when I arrived was a tour of the Eugene Saturday Market. Over the next few nights we shared many dinners at local restaurants, as well as staying in and enjoying delicious home-cooked food and a glass of wine. She took pride in showing me the best parts of Eugene. Patricia let me stay with her longer than expected, as it took me a while to sort out a place to live. She made me feel completely welcome and relaxed throughout my stay with her. 

Patricia’s kindness and friendship did not stop when I left her house and moved into my own apartment. She lent a bike and helmet to me during my whole semester there. When I moved out, she provided me with sheets, pillows, a comforter, blankets, towels and a lamp, all of which I borrowed from her house.

 She supported me throughout my time in Eugene. When I was feeling down, she would always be there for me. She was genuinely one of the best friends I made on my whole trip, and I value her friendship dearly.

 I would like to say thank you to Patricia for showing me the best of Eugene. I hope we will continue to be friends, and hopefully see each other again, either in the USA or New Zealand – where she certainly has a place to stay!!

The FFIS Homestay Program is for incoming UO international students starting the fall, winter, and spring terms.  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.

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