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Peoria Area Friends of International Students

Connecting International Students with the Community

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Friendship Partners

Friendship Partner Resources


The following is from Randy Mogler, who has coordinated the Friendship Partner program for a number of years. He shares some of his experiences.

PAFIS mission:

The PAFIS Bylaws state the purpose of the organization is to bring together Peoria area individuals, families, and international students to learn about and appreciate one another's cultures.

Additionally, it promotes an understanding of American life, provides the local community with opportunities to know and understand students, and to appreciate the cultures of their respective countries, annually gives scholarships to qualifying international students, and helps the students know and use the resources of our community and country.

A bulk of that purpose is actualized in the Friendship Partner program—formerly called Host Family program. The Friendship Partner program matches international students with individuals who have applied to be Friendship Partners with the students.

Randy's overview:

There is no doubt a wide variety of Friendship Partner experiences among those involved in the program.

My wife and I have been involved as Friendship Partners since 1996, and we have categorized our experiences into three categories:

  1. students we've done some things with
  2. students we've done nothing with
  3. students we've done everything with

Randy's first adventure (not so good):

Our very first experience with Friendship Partner students was the year we did nothing, unfortunately. That year we met our first two very kind Indian students at an organized PAFIS activity. We enjoyed out interchange and dialog very much that evening. The trouble is, we never saw the students again. We couldn't track them down from apartment to apartment, nor could we provide greater attraction than their already established peer group from their city in India. That was the year we did nothing with our students.

Randy and his wife tried again (success!):

We're so thankful that we came back for a 2nd round. We had no idea that when we met Getnet from Ethiopia that we'd become lifelong friends, and that he would become one of our family.

It actually started off in full force. We met him as scheduled—pick up times and understanding of the event were clear (they aren't always). We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a Thai restaurant. This was mutual ground where we could discuss the food of another culture, but it was neither of our cultures. The evening ended with a beautiful night drive tour of the Peoria area.

From this evening sprang a myriad of learning experiences for him and us.

Here's a sample of activities and experiences that were shared:

  • Getnet (the student) assisted taking residents with developmental challenges from the facilities in which we work out for a Thanksgiving meal
  • conducted informal mini English language lessons
  • periodically went for coffee or dinner
  • traveled to my parents' home near Sioux Falls, SD for Christmas
  • learned about receiving gifts from family at Christmas and gave gifts to everyone the next year
  • gave a presentation at a family Christmas about Christmas in Ethiopia
  • participated in some religious activities
  • went to a wide variety of family and extended family get-togethers (eg. family overnight trip to St. Louis, picnics, potlucks, graduations, birthday parties, high school programs, hospital and nursing home visits)
  • discovered Getnet couldn't see well and encouraged an eye exam—he later got glasses
  • went shopping—doing the mall and shopping in other cities as well
  • visited small town USA—Eureka
  • visited farms
  • New Years Eve, Getnet was snowed in for 3 days at our house; he learned to shovel snow
  • assisted him with getting a car and all the legalities that go with this (including discussion of maintenance)
  • held holiday gatherings—Thanksgivings
  • went boating at Lake Evergreen
  • had many political discussions and educational times about Ethiopian life—religion, politics, culture and his family—sharing pictures of family and friends, history, pictures of his own trips within Ethiopia
  • went to meet several family friends
  • met his Bradley international friends
  • reviewed current events together
  • visited grocery stores
  • Went to Chicago: boat tours, shopping, eating in Chinatown and an Ethiopian restaurant, the John Hancock building, etc.
  • toured family businesses
  • toured of small town factory—DMI in Goodfield
  • communicated with his mother in Ethiopia
  • experienced his masters' program work with him, and rejoiced with him when he discovered he could remain in the States to work
  • Getnet assisted us in moving to a new home and assisted in moving our baby grand piano
  • pulled taffy with residents at our facilities for developmentally challenged
  • attended a variety of Civic Center events
  • went on a fall drive and hike at Matthesien State Park
  • played with children (extended-family), and two of the kids pretended to speak "Ethiopian" during creative playtime after returning to Michigan from visiting with Getnet
  • did a "language exchange"—learned some Amharic words, found an Amharic Bible and gave it to him
  • rode bikes on the Rock Island trail
  • had a birthday-card shower for him and a special family steak dinner for his birthday
  • watched 4th of July fireworks
  • attended special festivals around the area (Irishfest, etc., art fairs and riverfront experiences)
  • gave him duplicate pictures of many events
  • went to his apartment and found our family picture on his mantel
  • toured a variety of styles of homes
  • attended musical concerts and events
  • sharing with him difficult family times—as when our 85-year old father had surgery

But one of the more heartwarming moments was a time we spontaneously stopped at his apartment, just to say hello. We found him sitting on his front porch alone, looking sad and lonely in the dark. He told us it was a special holiday in Ethiopia and he missed his family. We went for coffee and shared.

That was Getnet. He became a member of the family.

Randy's advice:

Certainly not all friendship partners will have the time or the energy to engage in such levels of involvement and activity. Some students will not want this.

Others of our students have been good, but not so intense. Some students have participated in a few family events such as two students did last year. They decided to be part of our traditional family meal. We usually go to church before the big feed, and the students decided they wanted to go with us. The trouble is, we arrived to pick them up in the morning to find they had not begun to get ready to go. Their housemates offered us hot milk with a little tea. We assumed we'd be ushered to the front of the church due to being late—which we were!

Everyone at church enjoyed meeting these gentlemen, and later we went to the meal.Though it was their first Thanksgiving, the engineering students recommended we place the turkey at a different angle for a better carving. They were right!

Even a little bit of involvement helps:

No matter what level of involvement we enjoy, we do find purpose in these interactions.

Listen to this:

Several years ago after the New Student Orientation, a group of students were standing outside Garrett Center where the New Student Orientation occurs. We introduced ourselves and shook everyone's hands. After visiting for some time, we began to depart. One student came up to us and said, "Thank you so much for stopping and shaking our hands. This made us feel welcome here in Peoria."

These experiences help us actualize our PAFIS purpose. We encourage each of you to be active at any level you are able, and we sincerely believe you can affect the lives of others and grow in the process as you do.

We have!