Nervous UO International Student From Asia Meets His FFIS Host Family


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 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 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 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

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 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 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

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

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 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
Secretary – Suzanne Dassenko
Fundraising Committee Chair – Deanna Brandt
Media Committee ChairRick Obst

Conversation Friend Coordinators:
June Brooks (541-714-7735 or
Craig Biersdorff (541-517-7652 or

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 or 541-517-7652.