Family of three stands in the park with two students

Friends of International Students (FIS)

First-year students will apply via the IPOP Registration Form in SLATE. 

Friends of International Students (FIS) has offered a valuable bridge between the campus and the local community for many years! FIS helps to build friendships across cultures, languages, and generations. The program enriches the lives of both students and hosts — participation is an act of soft diplomacy and hospitality. We want new students from around the globe to know that #YouAreWelcomeHere!

Every fall, Grinnell welcomes approximately 100 new international and global nomad students to campus. Students are invited to participate in FIS during their first year, and some relationships last longer. Participants connect over food, music and the arts, athletics and nature, and local and regional adventures. Students learn more about the community, hosts learn more about the College, and everyone learns more about the world!

Here’s How It Works…

Two men holding carved pumpkins and smiling at the viewer
  1. Hosts and students complete an application to indicate their interest.
  2. The Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) assigns student/host matches every August.
  3. Students arrive in mid-August to participate in International Pre-Orientation Program (IPOP), and FIS participants meet one another early in the fall semester.

The OISA will host an initial FIS Meet and Greet in early August, after which both students and hosts are encouraged to initiate invitations to meet. 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. The OISA staff and FIS volunteer coordinators are available to offer ideas about connecting or an experienced ear if you have questions. Feel free to call 641-269-3703 or email OISA. You can also contact the FIS volunteer coordinators Rachel Bly, Shane HartMary Lindberg, and Sara McCue.

We ask FIS hosts and students to initiate at least three or four activities per semester. Get to know each other and explore the local community together. Both students and hosts can extend invitations, and the best relationships are mutual.

We like to hear about FIS adventures, so please send us stories or photos! The OISA will invite you to special events, on occasion, like Grinnell’s Family Weekend, a fall pumpkin-carving party, a winter social, and the International Student Organization’s annual ISO Cultural Evening. You’ll also receive MOSAIC, a student magazine about global activities. In addition, we always need new hosts so please share the opportunity with friends.

Students have access to many campus resources. They are required to live on campus (with limited exceptions for upper-level students). Every student has a community adviser (CA); a residence life coordinator (RLC); a career advisor (CLS); and an academic advisor. Plus, they can always ask the OISA for help! International students can remain in their residence halls over academic year breaks, and they have access to summer storage organized by the Office of Residence Life and transportation via the Office of Facilities Management. They also have 24/7 access to Campus Safety, and confidential resources via Student Health and Wellness; Title IX; and the Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice.

In May, we reach out to FIS hosts to ask about your experience, and we invite you to consider hosting a new student the following year!

  • Four individuals hold pumpkins, smiling at the viewer

    Isa Valero Ying ’27 (Mexico, Thailand) and Samora Lumonya ’27 (Uganda), hosted by Catharine Found and Blaine Westemeyer

    After meeting Catharine and Blaine on a summer evening in August 2023, it has become hard to imagine life in Grinnell without them. Whether it is carving pumpkins on a random Thursday night, learning how to throw an American football, and everything in-between, it has been really cool to spend time with them and a comfort to know that they are there for us. 

  • Timur and FIS hosts, Valerie and Andy

    Timur Kasimov ’25, hosted by Valerie Benoist and Andy Mobley

    I had a wonderful experience with my host family over my first year in college. They took me out to do things I’d never done before in my life, like kayaking and sailing at a lake nearby Grinnell. They also had me over for dinners a few times. We always had a wonderful time cooking and eating together, all while having conversations on a variety of topics from college to our home countries to job opportunities and more.

  • Hart Family

    Shane and Lisa Hart, host to Dev Nalwa ’20 and Ishaan Tibrewal ’21 (India)

    When we first moved to Grinnell, we only planned on staying for five years. Being from Western Iowa, we didn’t know there was anything between Des Moines and Iowa City. It didn’t take us long to realize what an amazing community we had happened upon with endless opportunities. We have four young children and two full-time jobs, which equals a very busy life. However, when we were asked to participate in the FIS program, we saw it as an opportunity to give back to the community we had grown to love and call our own. At the time, we didn’t realize we would get more than we gave. We have had two students thus far, which our children call their “brothers.” Both are from India and both give us insight into a culture that is completely different from our own. It has been wonderful to get to know these boys through pumpkin carving, ice cream socials, dinners out, holidays, tennis matches, and even riding with us in the homecoming parade. At one such dinner, I had to tell my children to stop asking so many questions in order to allow our student to actually eat his dinner. The FIS program is a unique and wonderful way for our children to gain firsthand knowledge of a culture different from their own. We already know that we will participate for many years to come and encourage others to do the same!

  • Paps

    Papa Kojo Ampim-Darko ’19 (Ghana), hosted by Sarah Purcell and Hugh Sheridan

    I signed up for the FIS program just in a “why not?” moment, but it’s turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made. Host families are a great comfort and a home away from home. Mine have been there to cheer me on — be it chilly days on the soccer field or cultural shows — and to help me get the things I need (my favorite winter jacket), the things I want (a fridge); and the things I love (FOOD, SO MUCH GOOD FOOD)! They’ve helped me to discover parts of Grinnell that I never knew about — trails in CERA [Conard Environmental Research Area], the city swimming pool, etc. They have welcomed me into their family with open arms. I would totally recommend anyone to take advantage of this opportunity and sign up for a FIS host family because if they’re anything like mine, they’ll be one of your favorite things about Grinnell.

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