Students riding horses that are lead by adults

Friends of International Students (FIS)

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

Applications to be a host for the 2022–23 school year will be posted spring 2022.

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 culture, language, and generation. The program enrichens 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…

pumpkin carving
  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 mid-August to participate in International Pre-Orientation Program (IPOP), and FIS participants meet one another early in the fall semester.

Fall 2021

Grinnell supports the use of vaccination against COVID-19. Students who arrive without a vaccination will take a daily rapid antigen test for seven days upon arrival. Negative results will be required before they can participate in daily activities, and SHAW will hold a vaccination clinic for them. The OISA will host a brief outdoor “FIS Meet & Greet” on Wednesday, August 18 at 5:15 - we will invite one host/family member to attend, if vaccinated. We ask students to complete their COVID testing and vaccination before having more extended contact with their FIS hosts. The OISA will hold an FIS Potluck Picnic for all students and their hosts during Grinnell College’s Family Weekend, on Sunday, September 26. 

Both students and hosts are encouraged to initiate additional get-togethers. 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, JoAnn Britton, Mary Lindberg, and Sara McCue.

A Few Additional FIS Tips

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!


Saung Thuya ’19, Myanmar, hosted by Dan and Sara McCue and family

My first few weeks at Grinnell were tough, mainly because of homesickness and a new culture that is literally opposite to the Burmese culture I was brought up in. I am sure that many new students who were brought up in a culture similar to mine will relate to this feeling, in their early weeks at Grinnell. However, there is no need to worry. The option to get a local FIS host during IPOP (International Pre-Orientation Program) days has been one of the greatest gifts from Grinnell. I got to meet Dan and Sara McCue, and their three beautiful children, Slane, Hanna, and Graeme. They became a part of my life. They became the family that I really needed, during the biggest transition of my life. They helped me overcome my homesickness and culture shock. They helped me get connected with the Burmese community in Marshalltown. They even learned how to make Burmese tea, which is a treat when I hang out at their place! They helped Grinnell feel more like home. I encourage all incoming international students to apply for an FIS host. I know that I have gained a family that I’ll care about for years to come.


Donna and Allen Ricks, hosts to Tapiwa Zvidzwa ’19, Zimbabwe

We moved to a Grinnell acreage in 2011 in order to be closer to grandchildren. Donna is a retired high school speech and English teacher, and Al is retired from Iowa State University Extension. We’re enjoying a busy life, filled with volunteer and church activities. We heard about FIS and thought it would be a great opportunity to explore more cross-cultural relationships. With Iulia Iordache ’15, our Romanian “daughter,” we were hooked. We love welcoming the students into our lives — sharing holidays and special events, as well as everyday moments as time allows. We treasured our years with Iulia, and now we’re equally delighted to have Tapiwa Zvidzwa, from Zimbabwe, in our lives. What fantastic young adults find their way to Grinnell College! Our lives have been enriched as we’ve gotten to know our FIS students, and we hope they’ll long remember Grinnell’s warmth and hospitality.

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 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 from India and both giving 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!


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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