FFIS News for October 2018

Greeting at the Airport

A new University of Oregon school year has begun and FFIS has been active in welcoming new international students and scholars to our community through our short-term homestay program and Welcome Picnic.  We’d like to share some information about what’s been happening and remind you about our upcoming fundraiser at Fisherman’s Market on Monday, Oct. 8.

Fall Homestay Program – FFIS volunteers hosted 95 incoming international students in mid-September.  Thank you to the host families for opening up your hearts and homes to these students!  We surveyed host families and students to get their feedback after the homestay concluded.  These two blog posts share some of the students’ comments:

FFIS Homestay Students Share What Was the Most Rewarding Part of Being with A Local Host Family
FFIS Homestay Students Share What Was the Most Challenging Part of Their Homestay Experience

Welcome Picnic – Our annual picnic welcoming incoming UO and LCC international students was held on Sunday, Sept. 16, at Alton Baker Park.  Between 300 to 400 students attended.  Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis, Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg, LCC President Margaret Hamilton, and UO President Michael Schill attended and spoke words of welcome.  Photos taken at the picnic can be viewed in this Flickr album and in this Facebook album.

U of O Daily Emerald Story About FFIS – U of O Daily Emerald reporter Olivia Sanchez attended our Welcome Picnic at Alton Baker Park on Sept. 16 and wrote a story about FFIS that was published online and on page 3 of the Sept. 25 print edition.

Fundraising – FFIS is an all-volunteer non-profit and relies upon fundraising and donations to pay for its programs.  Here are five ways that you can help:

Fisherman’s Market will donate 20% of voucher purchases on the second Monday of each month to FFIS.  This Monday, Oct. 8, is the next fundraising opportunity.  They’ll write the purchase amount at the bottom of the voucher when you place your order from their menu.  They also have take-and-bake seafood meals available that are delicious.

Fisherman's Market in Eugene, Oregon

 Fred Meyer Community Rewards Program – If you shop at Fred Meyer, link your Rewards Card to FFIS.  In addition to the Rewards points that you’ll earn, Fred Meyer will also count those points as a donation to FFIS.  Learn more about the program and how to sign up here.

fred-meyer-logo

eScrip – Register your credit and/or debit card on the eScrip website denoting FFIS as your organization of choice.  Learn more about this program here.

Direct Donation – Checks made payable to the Friendship Foundation for International Students can be mailed to: Friendship Foundation for International Students, c/o Office of International Affairs, 5209 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403.

Pints for a Cause (LCC) – FFIS is also working with LCC’s International Programs.  LCC provided student workers, rice, and other items at the Welcome Picnic.  They have a fundraiser at Ninkasi’s Tasting Room on Thursday, Oct. 25.

Conversation Friend Program – Thirty-five students have signed up for the fall Conversation Friend program with more signing up almost daily.  We’ve been able to match 25 students so far and especially need male FFIS volunteers.  For those unfamiliar with how this program works, read A Conversation About the Conversation Friend Program.  If you’d like to learn more or volunteer, contact Craig Biersdorff at 541-517-7652 or ffisconversationfriends@gmail.com.

These posts share volunteer and student experiences in the program:

A Chinese Student Shares Her Thoughts About FFIS’ Conversation Friend Program
Susie Trant’s Experience as a Conversation Friend Volunteer
This Chinese PhD Student Appreciates His FFIS Conversation Friend

Maria from Finland and June Brooks

Photos – Do you have photos with your FFIS student(s) to share for possible use on future website blog posts?  They don’t have to be recent.  Send them to ffis@uoreogon.edu with a brief description of who is in each photo.

Have an Interesting Story for a Blog Post? – We’re always on the lookout for stories about FFIS volunteers and their experiences with the international students they’ve met.  Send an e-mail with some few details about your story to ffis@uoregon.edu and FFIS Steering Committee member Rick Obst will follow up with you.

Your Feedback – The Steering Committee welcomes your feedback and comments.  Send an e-mail to FFISEugene@gmail.com if you have anything that you’d like to share.  Thank you for being a part of this great local organization!

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

Japanese Homestay Student Appreciates Her FFIS Host Family

Japan 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 about what a University of Oregon student from Japan experienced as a participant in this program:

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate my host family.  They are the best host family in the world.  As you know, this was the first time for me to take an airplane and go overseas.  I was excited, but I was also anxious about my new life.  So, when I met them at the Eugene airport, I felt relieved. We were together just four days, but for me those four days were wonderful.

At the beginning of the school year, I was disappointed because I found out my English was poor.  But they gave me a call and visited me and encouraged me. Because of their support, the school year has gone smoothly.  And each time when I meet them, they made me happy. I have never forgotten what we did together.

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.

This U of O Student From Hong Kong Had A Wonderful FFIS Homestay Experience!

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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 about what a University of Oregon student from Hong Kong experienced as a participant in this program:

I am really thankful for having such a friendly and generous couple, Larry and Kristi, as my host family during my exchange in the U of O. They are so nice that they do not only offer help to me during the first few days after my arrival, but also throughout my school terms. I truly appreciate them for helping me so much and treating me like their friend and family member.

I arrived in Eugene on the 31st of Dec, perhaps one of the busiest days of the year. As soon as I arrived, I was so surprised and delighted that I saw a welcoming handicraft hanging on the door. It was the warmest welcome ever. I felt really comfortable, as I could feel that they’re seriously looking forward to meeting me. On New Year’s Eve, they even took me to their friend’s place and we celebrated New Year together

After my school started, I still had a lot of stuff to deal with. I always asked for their opinion as I was really unfamiliar with the environment in Eugene. They always provided me with the best and most reliable answers. Also, they are always willing to give me a ride to different places, such as the grocery store and the mall, which is really appreciated.

Besides, I appreciate that they like to share their thoughts with me. I can always get new insights from them. Kristi also knows Asian culture very well. She definitely delivered a lot of new knowledge to me. I am so glad that I could have the chance to talk with a foreigner about my own culture.

It is my pleasure to have such a warm home in Eugene, I extremely appreciate their generosity and their warm hospitality. I would like to thank them once again.

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.

An FFIS Volunteer Shares Her Experience Hosting a U of O Student from France

France

The Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) provides short-term homestay programs at the beginning of the fall, winter, and spring terms.  Incoming University of Oregon international students stay in a local community member’s home for 3-5 days.  They then move to permanent housing in an apartment or dormitory.

In this post, FFIS volunteer June Brooks shares her experience hosting UO international student Lucile de Boisson from France.

How and when did you get involved with FFIS? I have been involved as a host parent for international students since 1989. We became involved through a friend who had been a host parent for a number of years. In the past 21 years, we have probably had around 20 students.

How many times have you participated in FFIS’s Homestay program? If more than once, what other countries were your Homestay students from? Our students have come from all over Europe (England, Scotland, Norway, Denmark, France, Germany, Cyprus, Romania, Austria and Italy) as well as from Australia. Some of them have stayed at the U of O for only one term while others have completed entire degrees here, undergraduate as well as graduate degrees. I am still in close contact with my first student, a young man from Norway, as well as about 10 others. My husband and I were actually able to visit five of our former students while we traveled throughout northern Europe. It was certainly wonderful to see so many of them, to meet their spouses and their children or in two cases, their parents.

What did you enjoy (and/or continue to enjoy) most about your experiences with the Homestay program? The thing that I enjoy most about the program is getting to know the students and having the opportunity to show them around the Eugene area and then around Oregon. We always make it a point to take them to Crater Lake right away in September since the northern entrance to the National Park closes at the first snowfall and sometimes doesn’t open again until late June. We always take them to the coast. We also like to take them to places right here in town that they might not know about (Spencer’s Butte, Mt. Pisgah, the Bijou movie theater). Having them over for dinner on a regular basis, taking them to U of O sporting events, and taking them shopping are other things that are always enjoyable.

Please briefly explain how you may have helped Lucile make that transition from French to American culture? Lucile is one of the most outgoing, vivacious students we have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. She jumped into the American culture and all the opportunities at the U of O with no prompting from us! She has gone sea kayaking at the coast, rock climbing at Smith Rock, snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor, gone whitewater rafting on the McKenzie and she has climbed South Sister to watch the sunrise – just to name a few things she has done in the three months she has been here! She has seen more of Oregon and has enjoyed more of its natural wonders than people who have lived here their entire lives.

What was the most memorable thing you learned about Lucile’s way of life in France? I think that the most important thing we have learned from our students over the years is that the things that we as human beings have in common are much, much greater than any differences we may have because we speak a different language or have a different religion. France is not so very different from the U.S., so there hasn’t been one thing that stands out that we have learned about the French culture from Lucile.

 Was there anything you discovered about your own culture while hosting?  Most of my students comment on how friendly Americans are – how warm and outgoing we are. Depending on where they come from, they see our infrastructure and our way of doing things as very efficient and commendable, or very antiquated. It is interesting to see how that opinion changes depending on where the students hail from.

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.

A Host Family To Me Means Having A Second Family Away From Home

Mexico

The Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) provides short-term homestay programs at the beginning of the fall, winter, and spring terms.  Incoming University of Oregon international students stay in a local community member’s home for 3-5 days.  They then move to permanent housing in an apartment or dormitory.

This is what a Mexican student wrote about her FFIS homestay experience:

A host family to me means having a second family away from home, and also feeling safe and loved among nice people. Experiencing a new culture, settling down in a new country, and discovering the astonishing natural beauty of Oregon would not have been possible without my host family.

I have to start off by saying THANK YOU SO MUCH PETE and VINNIE!! Not only did we spend incredible times together, but both of you were also there for me all the time.   Some of the things we did together that I am most grateful for and I will never forget are:

  • movie nights, cooking and having dinner together
  • amazing evenings going to concerts
  • picking me up at the airport
  • visiting the Cascades
  • helping me with my school projects
  • sharing our knowledge and experiences
  • walking the dog
  • meeting the neighbors and making new friends
  • listening to my stories about my country and my family, and many more.

I am so glad I got the amazing opportunity to meet you!

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.

This Russian Student Calls Oregon Her Second Home Thanks to Her FFIS Homestay Family!

Russia Map

The Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) provides short-term homestay programs at the beginning of the fall, winter, and spring terms.  Incoming University of Oregon international students stay in a local community member’s home for 3-5 days.  They then move to permanent housing in an apartment or dormitory.

This is what a Russian student wrote about her FFIS homestay experience:

Coming to Oregon from Russia all alone could be intimidating and challenging. I am so glad, lucky and grateful for the FFIS program! I applied to have a temporary host family in Eugene, because I didn’t know anyone or anything about the city when I was in Russia, waiting for my departure to the United States.

Paul and Susie were very welcoming and supportive and have become more than just “temporary hosts” or “volunteers”; they became my close friends and someone I can come to with questions or problems. I like to call them my Oregon parents. We have a lot in common and therefore there are always things we discuss, laugh about, and share. 

Susie and Paul have also hosted at least 18 foreign students before me and I got a chance to meet some of them who haven’t graduated yet. We are like a big international family. We meet every term for breakfast and catch up on happenings in each other’s lives, go shopping together, help each other if something is wrong.

It’s great to have this kind of support when you are in a completely new place, speaking a different language, away from your family and friends from back home. Thanks to Paul and Susie and our international family, I can call Oregon my second home. 

If you would like to host an international student in FFIS’ Homestay Program, contact Becky Megerssa, UO Liaison, at 541-346-1436 or ffis@uoregon.edu.

What International Students Say About FFIS’ Short-Term Homestay Program

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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 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 staying with a host family?

  • My transition to a new country couldn’t have been smoother. I am still in touch with my host family and they’re amazing people.
  • They are warm and made me feel at home.
  • Making friends with my host and hostess.
  • Getting to know the American culture and lifestyle.  They made me feel at home.
  • Getting to meet new people and having support in the first few days (and also after that).
  • Their warmth and hospitality
  • It is very helpful for an international student who has no family In Eugene.
  • My host family always cares and helps me with various things.
  • They were so kind. They drove us to campus during orientation.
  • I still keep in touch with my host mother and we hang out together three or four times a month.
  • They treat me like family members so that I’m not lonely during my first term.
  • They always supported me and they invited me to their Thanksgiving dinner.
  • My host mum takes me on a lot of day trips and hikes to surrounding areas. Therefore, I am seeing so much of what Oregon has to offer. We are very similar in the way that we both love exercise and keeping fit, so it has been a great and rewarding match.
  • Forming a friendship with a local which has lasted throughout my time at UO.

What was the most challenging part of staying with a host family?

  • Joining the conversation was difficult at first, because I’m shy and not good at English
  • Can’t think of anything.
  • Language and cultural differences sometimes created different perceptions and conversational expectations.
  • I didn’t know what polite and natural conversation is like in the U.S.
  • None actually. I couldn’t have had a better experience.
  • I was initially a bit anxious to meet them, but it turned out great.😊
  • I can’t think of anything that stands out. I felt a bit homesick at first, but they made me feel very comfortable.
  • Understanding their culture and customs.

Did you feel safe and supported during your stay with an FFIS homestay family? 100% responded “Yes.”

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.