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International Programs
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-2026

Release: Immediate

Public invited to meet international students at FIS picnic Sept. 13

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- For many international students at the University of Iowa, studying in the United States is about more than the academic experience. While they are here earning degrees in various fields, many students also hope to learn about American culture and are eager to participate in activities with members of the local community.

A UI program called Friends of International Students (FIS) fosters such opportunities by matching members of the Iowa City and surrounding communities with an international student for shared activities including meals, movies, shopping, or attending local sporting or cultural events. The matches typically get together once a month.

The first step toward becoming part of FIS is a picnic on Sunday, Sept. 13 from noon to 4 p.m. in Shelter 11 in Lower City Park. The public is invited to this event to meet some of the 80 international students waiting to be matched with American friends. During that time they can chat with students and play games such as volleyball, croquet and cards. Those who attend are asked to bring a dish for their family and an extra one to share with everyone.

"Everyone in the community who is interested in meeting international students is invited to the picnic," said Cheryl Mason, a UI international student advisor and FIS liaison. "It's going to be a lot of fun, and the learning is a two-way street. Not only do the international students learn about U.S. culture, but volunteers learn about their friend's country and culture from a first-hand perspective."

Of the 80 students who are waiting to be matched with American friends, 50 are newly arrived students this fall and another 30 have been on a waiting list for one or more semesters. While students from more than 100 countries attend the UI, the list of students waiting for matches includes many students from China, Taiwan, Korea, India and Malaysia.

"The main thing FIS does is help a student adjust not only to Iowa and the university but also to the American culture," Mason says. "FIS really helps with the adjustment and helps make the transition a lot smoother."

FIS participants frequently keep in contact with each other after the students return to their home countries. Everyone from families to single people can volunteer for the program. FIS volunteers represent all age groups, from students to senior citizens. To get involved with the FIS program, call Cheryl Mason at (319) 335-0335 or send email to

FIS is affiliated with the UI Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS), which provides information, services and programs that help international students and scholars benefit from their stays in Iowa. The office also seeks to foster constructive relationships among international and other members of the university community. Student advisers provide orientation for international students and scholars, personal counseling and advising, immigration advising, financial counseling, conflict resolution and crisis intervention. They also serve as liaisons with FIS and the International Women's Club.

OISS is part of UI International Programs, which consist of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.

(Note to editors and photographers: A personal feature illustrating a matched student and Iowa City resident can be arranged. If you wish to interview a local couple, single person or family currently matched with an international student, please call Lois Gray at 335-2026 or Cheryl Mason at 335-0335.)