Host with international students

Now Taking Applications for Fall 2016

Join us! We are seeking participants for 2016–17. Complete your host application or student application today.

FIS is a non-residential program that builds student/community host friendships across culture, across generations, and across communities.

STUDENTS enjoy having a local connection (FIS helps them get to know the area better), and the opportunity to introduce their country and culture to people who live in Iowa. The option to request an FIS host is extended to new international students, language assistants, and a small number of U.S. students who have lived abroad. Grinnell College enrolls nearly 300 international students from over 50 nations.

HOSTS befriend students during their transition to our campus, our local community, and our country. Your life and the lives of our students are enriched as a result of your participation and “soft diplomacy” — and we appreciate your hospitality! We welcome families and individuals who range in lifestyle and stage of life. There are over 200 local hosts involved in FIS.

How It Works

  1. Hosts and students complete an application to indicate their interest. The OISA assigns student/host matches in early August. Hosts receive information about their student by mail, and students receive information about their FIS host upon arrival in Grinnell.
  2. On Tuesday, August 16, 2016, during the International Pre-Orientation Program (IPOP), the OISA offers a brief (separate) orientation for students and hosts, and then you meet each other. New students will also have free time to spend with FIS hosts on the evening of Wednesday, August 17, 2016.
  3. We encourage students and hosts to initiate contact and extend invitations to get together, at your convenience. Hosts often invite students to visit their homes and to explore the local area. Students often invite hosts to campus activities and may consider their FIS host as a resource for their adjustment to life in Iowa.
  4. The OISA staff and FIS volunteer coordinators are here to offer fresh ideas about connecting with your student, or an experienced ear if you run into struggles or questions about your FIS relationship. For more information, contact the OISA [641-269-3703] or email the OISA staff or FIS volunteer coordinators:

What the OISA Expects From FIS Hosts

  • Read this information, and attend the August FIS host orientation and meet-and-greet activities.
  • The primary goal is friendship. Do your best to get to know the student(s), help them adjust to life in Grinnell, and share experiences across culture and generations.
  • We hope your relationship will last throughout the student’s first year at Grinnell. Some friendships last longer — but that’s a perk, not an expectation.
  • Initiate at least two or three activities per semester (some do more, some do less). Personal contact is best — but phone, email, and Facebook are also great ways to stay in touch.
  • Don’t wait for the student to reach out — FIS hosts often need to initiate, at least in the early stages.
  • Read a bit about the country your student calls home. CULTURE GRAMS offer an excellent overview to get you started. You might also be prepared to answer some questions about U.S. American culture.
  • The OISA loves hearing about your FIS adventures. Send us stories or photos!
  • We are always looking for new FIS hosts; share this opportunity with your friends.
  • Remember, if your student has a question or concern, they can ask their community adviser (CA), residence life coordinator (RLC), or the OISA for help.
  • Some students, or their parents, may have higher expectations of your role — let us know if you need help with this.
  • If you are ever concerned about your student’s physical or emotional well-being, please contact (or refer them to) the Office of International Student Affairs, 641-990-3700; Campus Safety & Security, 641-269-4600; or Student Health & Counseling Services, 641-269-3230.

What Hosts Can Expect from the OISA

  • We’ll introduce you to your student, to help your friendship get off to a good start.
  • We’ll send you two meal passes for the Marketplace Dining Hall, compliments of the Office of Community Enhancement (we encourage you to connect with your student on their turf).
  • We’ll invite you to several special events:
    • Grinnell’s Family Weekend
    • Fall Pumpkin Carving Party
    • Winter Social
    • Two annual events hosted by the International Student Organization: ISO Food Bazaar (tickets for advance purchase) and ISO Cultural Evening (open admission).
  • We’ll email you periodically; please update us if your address changes. We sometimes communicate with FIS hosts if your student is experiencing difficulty, but we don’t always have the option for reasons of confidentiality.
  • You’ll receive MOSAIC, a student magazine about global activities at Grinnell. We welcome your contributions, too!
  • The Student Alumni Association will invite you to participate in their optional Exam Care Package Program. Alternately, some hosts create their own care packages to show support during exams.
  • In May, we reach out to ask FIS hosts about your experience, and we invite you to consider hosting a new student the following August. Note: Although t is not a requirement, if you stay connected with the students in their second, third, and forth year, that’s wonderful! Upper class students can also be a great resource to first-years as they get to know each other as ‘host siblings’.

What FIS Hosts and Students Should Expect from Each Other

  • Initiate two or three activities per semester (some do more, some do less). Personal contact is best — but phone, email, and Facebook are also great ways to stay in touch.
  • It is ok to ask for help — but it isn’t ok to make assumptions about ability, availability, or willingness to offer help.
  • Enjoy your time together — and do your best to invite and include each other in activities that you enjoy.
  • Be open minded. Ask questions. Teach each other about your culture and your experience.
  • Both students and hosts are encouraged to extend invitations to get together on campus or off. The best relationships are mutual and interactive.
  • We’re all busy! Students and hosts live busy lives. If an invitation won’t work or isn’t appealing, it’s ok to say no!
  • Be polite. Reply to emails, voicemails, etc. Be on time. Say thank you. Plan ahead. Communicate when plans change.
  • STUDENTS: Consider the life stage and mindset of your FIS host and potential family members as you approach this relationship. FIS hosts have a wide range of backgrounds — some have traveled, some have not; some are new to Iowa too, others have lived in Grinnell their entire life! Children may be enamored by you; or they might not care at all. Very few will have visited your home country (though some probably have). In addition, please remember that FIS hosts are not your private taxi service or storage unit It’s ok to ask your FIS for help if you need it, but it isn’t their job, and you should use college services for these needs first.
  • HOSTS: Consider the life stage and mindset of a 17–20-year-old as you approach this relationship. Remember that the student might be coming to the U.S. for the first time. In addition, the student is not your private baby sitter, language tutor, or cultural ambassador. It’s OK to ask your FIS student for help, if you need it, but it isn’t their job, and it’s actually unlawful for F-1 students to engage in services for pay.