We're Meeting People From All Over The World Without Our Passports!

Nepal on World Map

Next month my wife and I will be living with a graduate student from Kathmandu, Nepal in south Asia.  We'll also be living with students from Japan and China.  In the past, we've lived with students from South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Argentina.  Yet our passports have expired, we won't be getting on an airplane, and we'll be sleeping in our own bed every night.  How can we do this?

We don't go to the students' homes.  The students come to our home.  We're a host family for international students attending the University of Oregon through the Friendship Foundation for International Students (FFIS) and the U of O's American English Institute (AEI).  The University of Oregon has a rapidly growing enrollment of international students from all over the world, but especially from China.

The FFIS homestay program is for newly arrived international students who will be attending the University of Oregon's regular classes.  They stay with local host families for 4-6 days before moving to permanent housing in dormitories or apartments.  FFIS is a local non-profit founded in 1949 to encourage meaningful interactions between U of O international students and residents of Eugene and Springfield.  The FFIS newsletters help to show how FFIS is fulfilling their mission.

The AEI homestay program is for students who come to the U of O for intensive English language training at the American English Institute.  Students pay a stipend to live with local host families for one or more terms.  They are encouraged to participate in family activities.  The AEI homestay family handbook does a good job of explaining the role and responsibilities of being a homestay family.

International Students from Africa, Asia, and the Middle EastWe hosted the three students in this picture over five years ago and they're a good example of the diverse and positive experiences we've had as a home stay family.

1.  Maguette was a Fulbright Scholar from Senegal in west Africa.  Senegal's primary languages are French and Wolof, except for two regions where English is primary.  Maguette lived with us as an AEI student for a term, moved to an apartment, but visited for holidays and dinner frequently.  He loves garlic corn and tea with lots of sugar in it.  Maguette came back for additional studies a few years ago, returned home, and may return for a month-long visit in September.  We stay in touch with him regularly by Facebook.  He has a laugh like comedian Eddie Murphy, is like a son to us, and calls us "Mom" and "Dad".

2.  Yayoi is from Japan, stayed with us as an FFIS homestay student, and then we moved her into the dorm.  She'd frequently come over with her friends for dinner or holidays.  I can still remember helping her move stuff into various suitcases at the Eugene Airport to meet weight limitations.  She still sends us handmade Christmas gifts every year.

3.  Ali is from Saudi Arabia and a father of four.  Like Maguette, he still calls us "Mom" and "Dad."  He loves cheese and Mom's garlic bread.  I later wrote a recommendation to help him get accepted into a graduate school in Paris.  He has sent flowers to my wife on Mother's Day and we enjoy when he calls us from France or Saudi Arabia to exchange news about each other's lives.

Each student we've hosted is different and leads to a unique set of experiences for them and us.  They return home with fond memories of us and their time in Eugene and western Oregon.  Several have returned, or are planning to return, for visits.  They have become a part of our "extended family" and soon we'll have "sons" from Nepal, China, and Japan to add to our family.

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.


Comment balloon 6 commentsRetired from ActiveRain • August 23 2012 11:54AM


We have hosted a girl from Germany a few years back we still stay intouch and a few visits have been made.  Thanks for sharing and best wishes.

Posted by Diane Daley (Caron's Gateway Real Estate) almost 8 years ago

I have previously hosted students and have met terrific folks, including other family members over the years.  I still keep in touch with several of my students.  I have visited several of them in their hometowns too. 

Hosting is a wonderful experience and provides you with a way to learn about different cultures.  If you are thinging about hosting, talk to folks that have hosted.  It's truely worthwhile.

Posted by Dee Toohey, Broker, ABR, AHWD, CIPS, FMS, ePro (Innovative Realty Solutions Group) almost 8 years ago

sounds like a wonderful and gratifying way to make a difference, be an ambassador of sorts, and meet a lot of great people.  

Posted by Jeanne M. Gavish, Keller Williams Realty Elite Partners - CIPS,GRI,S (Jeanne Gavish, Keller Williams Realty Elite Partners) almost 8 years ago

Caron: It's nice to have a friendly place to stay when you travel overseas.

Dee: We've also met family members who came to visit their son or daughter.  One host family even went to Taiwan for the wedding of their host daughter.  Every host family program and every student being hosted is different.  I've discovered that we have more similarities than differences, regardless of language or culture.

Jeanne: You never know where the favorable impressions left on an international student will lead them in the future.  I think that my interest in hosting stems from being hosted in New Zealand for a year as a high school Rotary Exchange Student.

Posted by Retired from ActiveRain almost 8 years ago

Hi Rick,


        Even though I have not yet experienced to host a family or student. I can feel your accomplishment being a host family and how proud you are in seeing these students succeed. Because you & your wife have been a huge part of it. I'm really happy & thank god that there is still a good people like you guys in accepting these students in your home. I salute you!


Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience with us!


Posted by Juniper Cooper, I will provide the services you need and expect. (Silvercreek Realty Group ) almost 8 years ago

Hello Rick,

You are amazing people who seize life and make a difference. I hope that you have a wonderful trip and have lots of good memories to share with us when you get back in town.  Blessings!  Lori Spohn Team

Posted by Lori Spohn almost 8 years ago