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

Les and Marian Brod Share Their Experience With The FFIS Conversation Friend Program

Les Brod & Marcia

Les and Marian Brod have been FFIS Conversation Friend volunteers for many years.  In this post they share recent experiences with their Conversation Friend from China:

Yunhong Bai, or Marcia as she liked to be called in English, came to the UO as a “courtesy professor” from a university in Beijing. Her purpose here was to learn how to teach English more effectively and to improve her own language skills, which were already quite good upon arrival. As a retired teacher of English, I quickly discovered we had much in common, but our conversations were not limited to teaching. For example, we discussed culture, politics, daily life, foods, wine and my weak Chinese language ability, among many other topics. 

During Marcia’s stay my wife, Marian, and I invited her and another visiting Chinese professor, Shirley, to our house where we all participated in making “baozi,” a type of filled dumpling common in Chinese cuisines.  The water boiled, the flour flew, and the roller flattened. 

Meanwhile we scooped filling, pinched baozi closed, and flung them into the pot of boiling water. We had a nice dusting of flour in the kitchen, but the results were great. During another meeting, we took Marcia to a winery for her first wine tasting experience; she enjoyed it immensely and now knows about Oregon Pinot Noir.

I would strongly encourage anyone who is a bit adventurous and wants an up-close and personal experience with people from other cultures to consider an FFIS conversation partner. It provides you with new insights, keeps your brain from gathering cobwebs and provides students and scholars from other countries the opportunity to get acquainted with real Americans–not just the ones they read about in their news headlines.

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 541-517-7652 or FFIS.ConversationFriends@gmail.com.

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.

A Chinese Student Shares Her Thoughts About FFIS’ Conversation Friend Program

China 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 Chinese student wrote about her experiences with her FFIS Conversation Friend:

I am not a socially active person and I sometimes have trouble making friends. Therefore, I do not have too many friends, even Chinese friends. However, last term I met you through the conversation friend program. At the beginning, I could not believe what I saw from the email. “I am going to have a conversation friend!!” I thought. However, I was hesitating. My English was poor. I was not good at finding topics while chatting…I might be silly when I meet you!

However, I decided to meet you on Tuesday. I remember it was January 13th. You were extremely kind and you relieved all of my tensions. I really enjoyed chatting with you. After that you brought me to many places in Eugene that I did not know – 5th Street Public Market, Oakway Center, Pancake House, Yogurt Extreme, BJ’s and so on. I know you were trying to let me know more about this city. Without you, I will probably still be that kind of girl who hides inside the dorm.

Because of you, I know a lot about American culture. We celebrated your birthday with your family and that was my first time to really get closer to an American family. I felt so warm in your family! I was very shy, but your family let me feel the warmth just like in my home country. Everyone treated me so well! Those anxieties of being an international student have been eliminated. You also introduced me to a lot of good events, which I wouldn’t have attended before I met you!

You are definitely the best American friend of mine!! I am not good at writing, but I am trying to describe my appreciation to you. I do not know how long the conversation friend program will last, but I hope we will be friends and still hang out together even if this program finishes! Thank you and bring my best wishes to your great family!!

To learn more about the FFIS Conversation Friend Program, contact FFIS Conversation Friend Coordinator June Brooks at 541-513-4086 or JuneEBrooks@gmail.com.

A Conversation About the Conversation Friend Program

Maria from Finland and June Brooks

June Brooks is FFIS’ Conversation Friend Coordinator.  In this post she shares her insights about the program, how it works, and how local community members can participate.

What is the FFIS Conversation Friend Program? 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. They meet for one hour a week in a public setting.

How does it work? The goal is for the volunteer to help the student or visiting scholar or spouse with conversational English skills. The volunteer does not act as a tutor, just as a friend. Women are matched with women and men are matched with men. Our volunteers have met with their conversation friends over coffee on campus, gone to museums together, met for lunch, gone shopping, or taken long walks around Eugene.

There are no limits or restrictions on what the two new friends can do. The flexibility of the program is something that appeals to a number of our volunteers. Each week can be different. The times to meet can change, as can the day of the week and the venue at which the friends get together. The program is the second program (along with the homestay program) that FFIS provides to international students and its volunteers. It is another rewarding and fun way to connect with the many young people who come to the U of O each year.

When does the program start? The program begins in October after the students have settled in. It runs until June. The only restriction that we place on our participants is to please respect each other’s unique cultural, religious and ethnic differences and to not proselytize. It is a program that enriches lives – those of our international students as well as our volunteers.

This sounds great! How can I learn more? To learn more about the FFIS Conversation Friend Program, contact FFIS Conversation Friend Coordinator June Brooks at 541-513-4086 or JuneEBrooks@gmail.com.

Photo: Maria from Finland and June Brooks

 

Susie Trant’s Experience as a Conversation Friend Volunteer

Susie Trant & Juyeon Lee

FFIS volunteer Susie Trant shares her experience as a Conversation Friend to Juyeon Lee, the South Korean student she is matched with:

As a first-time Conversation Friend volunteer, I have been delighted with the connection I’ve made with my “match.” Over these few months, Juyeon Lee and I have met almost every week for various activities: often a walk or a bit of sightseeing, sometimes a meal, and each time, a lovely chat. At first, topics focused on living in the U.S. and Eugene, sharing family info or just navigating every day English. Recently, we have graduated to more weighty subjects.

Since she is from South Korea, and especially considering current events, our exchanges have been illuminating for me. And I believe it’s helpful for her to open up and express herself clearly on issues that personally concern her. Perfecting her English is not really possible, but her oral confidence has been growing and her English has improved in just a short time. Overall, this experience has been rich for us both, and I’m sure our friendship will endure even after she returns home. ~ Susie Trant

The Conversation Friend program will be matching local community volunteers with University of Oregon international students starting in October.  To learn more about the program, contact June Brooks, the FFIS Conversation Friend Coordinator, at 541-513-4086 or JuneEBrooks@gmail.com

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.