Global Roots, Local Lives

August 25, 2015

Adjusting to life in Grinnell can be daunting for even the most well traveled international student. Want to know what the quirky local customs are? Wishing you had someone to talk to about your favorite traditions at home? Feeling the need for family when yours is far away? Don’t sweat it! The Friends of International Students (FIS) program has you covered.

Host family with children pose with their international student
The FIS program is a time-honored tradition at Grinnell College. Students from places as far reaching as Serbia, Ghana, and China are matched with local families who act as community hosts, providing them with support and friendship during their college years. With nearly 150 community hosts involved in the program, you’re sure to find a family that suits your personality. No wonder more than 84 percent of international students at Grinnell are part of FIS!

“This program really allows you to see the American family lifestyle and experience what the community is like,” says Avantika Johri ’18. “It’s really enlightening.”

For Johri, the chance to have an off-campus refuge and meet Grinnell townspeople with the Seney family has been invaluable. Whether it’s ice cream study breaks, family dinners, or a visit to the children’s school, the FIS program has allowed Johri to get a feel for what life is like in small-town Iowa. “It has really shaped my college experience so far,” Johri claims.

Sarah and Kevin Seney, as well as their three young daughters, have been equally thrilled with the experiences they’ve had as Johri’s community hosts.

“We felt that this was a way that our family could connect with the College and also give our daughters an experience they might not have gotten if we didn’t jump at this opportunity,” Sarah says. “It’s a wonderful way to connect the community with the College.”

The Seney’s daughters have relished the chance to learn about Johri’s home in India, and hope to bring her to speak in their classes at school.

Johri’s favorite part of the experience? Playing with the Seney’s children at Central Park. “They have so much energy; it kind of re-energizes me!”

“We hope that Avi feels that she can come to us for anything she may need — support, activities in the community, or just someone to talk to,” Sarah says.

So, if you’re nervous about studying in the U.S., or if you want to learn more about everyday life in the city of Grinnell, the FIS program is here for you!

Avantika Johri is an undeclared major from Mumbai, India.

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