The Friendship Foundation for International Students 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 home, helping them to get oriented and settled. 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 families after the homestay ends. One question asks families to share ideas and suggestions new families can use when they begin hosting.
If you could share your experience with a new FFIS host, what tip would you offer?
- Cooking meals together is a fun way to get to know each other. We have some conversation starter questions that were fun to answer after eating.
- Be open to new things. Speak slowly and clearly so they can understand you. Pause and look directly at them when they speak and compliment their English.
- Take them to the Coast if you can. Many times, the students are worried about getting things set up, but there’s usually time to do that and also let them see a broader part of Oregon.
- Understand that every student will come with different expectations. Some will become very close friends and some will drift away after the first two weeks. This is not a reflection on the host family. Also, plan a fun thing to do and laugh!
- Make sure they attend the welcome picnic and gradually encourage them to become more independent.
- Be friendly and be yourself. Try to learn what you can about your student’s country.
- It is useful to know something of the culture and traditions of the country your student is from.
- Try it and see if you like it!
- We spent time talking about how to make friends. For instance, after introducing yourself we talked about the variety of questions to ask someone. My young woman was very excited to tell me how wonderful this worked and how quickly she is making friends.
- Be clear about the dates of the stay from the very beginning.
- Be sensitive to the student’s need for sleep upon arrival. Reinforce the length of stay you have agreed to. Be open to learning new things about the student’s homeland. Don’t talk politics or religion. If you attend church, politely ask if the student would like to attend with you.
- The first night, let them rest. On the second day, get them situated on campus and go shopping.
- Be flexible, but at the same time help the student become aware of the expectations of behavior in your family and in American culture.
- This is a rewarding experience.
- Be good listeners. Have positive suggestions ready. Most students are very capable of being on their own, are proficient in English, and are highly motivated. But they are far from home and do run into snags. These students will be leaders in their own country, and it is important that they have a good experience while they are here.
- Be able and willing to change your plans with little advance notice.
- Usually the student is more confident with his or her written English language skills versus their verbal skills. Have a journal in which students can better express themselves about their homestay experience and read what past students have written. If the student feels more comfortable writing in their native language, let them. A future student that speaks that language can always translate it. You’d be amazed what students will write that they are afraid to verbalize, because they are not comfortable verbalizing it in English.
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.