Seven years ago, a nervous, young Japanese music student named Kazuha walked through the airport arrival gates in Eugene, Oregon. She was about to begin nine months of violin study at the University of Oregon. Kazuha didn't know anyone in Oregon and had little idea what she was getting herself into. Was leaving her friends and family for a strange country with different customs a big mistake?
She anxiously scanned the airport lobby for the host family she'd be staying with for her first few days. A couple stepped forward, recognizing Kazuha from a picture she'd sent. The wife handed her a bouquet of flowers. The husband smiled broadly and said "Welcome to Eugene" while taking her picture. "Perhaps I will have a wonderful experience here," she thought to herself.
Seven years later, that first memory is still vividly remembered by Kazuha. She returned to the U.S. recently for a weeklong Suzuki violin music camp in Seattle, WA. Although she had just over a day of free time before returning to Japan, she chose to spend it in Eugene with the family she'd lived with for awhile in 2006. Her memories of the campus, music school, dorm room, and Eugene didn't all flood back to her. But that first moment when she met her host family still resonated deeply in her conscious.
This story isn't unique to Kazuha. Being a short-term home stay family through the Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) has a long-term positive effect on international students. Friendships are formed and warm memories are created that last well beyond the time when the student departs for his or her home country. It's why some FFIS host families have been opening their home to incoming international students for 20+ years now.
The University of Oregon is gearing up for another record number of international students beginning school in the fall term. The Office of International Affairs is in full-planning mode to welcome and orient 800 new international students. This means that the number of international students who so desire to meet Americans and make new friends will also increase.
FFIS needs families to host a new international student in their homes for 4-5 days (Sept. 14 - 18.) This service is so important to students because they have to arrive early for orientation, but the residence halls on campus do not open early. If students don't have a host family, they must stay in a hotel. Contact Becky Megerssa at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-346-1436 or go to http://www.ffisoregon.org/ for more information. Read some of the FFIS newsletters to learn more about this 60-year-old local non-profit and its people and programs.
Rick Obst is an Arizona native who moved to Eugene, Oregon in 2005 and fell in love with the verdant Pacific Northwest. He enjoys photography and discovering the many people, places, and events that make this part of the world so special.
To learn more about Eugene, Lane County, and western Oregon, visit 365 and More Things to do in Lane County, Oregon on Facebook. You'll see hundreds of pictures and links to discover the beauty and attractions of this special area.