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

Release: Sept. 7, 1999

Community invited to Friends of International Students picnic Sept. 12

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- More participants are needed for a program that matches local residents with international students at the University of Iowa. Community members will have an opportunity to learn more about Friends of International Students (FIS) at a picnic Sunday, Sept. 12.

The picnic will be held from 12:30 to 4 p.m. in Shelter 11 in Lower City Park, rain or shine. Eating will begin at 1 p.m. At that time, unmatched international students will be present as well as international students and Friends who are already matched. Each Friend is to bring plenty of food to share and table service to the picnic. FIS will provide the drinks.

"There is an ongoing need for new Friends to be matched with international students," says FIS president Ethel Bontrager. "It's especially important to get more Friends in the program now because many new international students have recently arrived on campus, and we want to welcome them to the University of Iowa and make it a special time for them."

An estimated 375 new international students have recently arrived on the UI campus, bringing total enrollment to 1,600 international students. Many of these new students wish to meet Americans who will help welcome them to the local community and show them the ropes in their new home in Iowa. New students who have applied to the program are from the following countries: China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, India, Kenya, Egypt, Romania, Nigeria, Scotland, Mexico, Colombia, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The majority of students are from China and India.

FIS is a non-profit organization of people in the local community who are interested in meeting and helping international students from the UI. FIS is affiliated with the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) at the UI and is run by community volunteers.

Volunteer community Friends are matched with international students and spend time together doing fun activities that are an everyday part of life such as having dinner together, going on a picnic, going to a movie or just getting together and chatting.

Cheryl Mason, international student adviser and FIS liaison, said that currently more than 150 Friends and more than 250 international students are involved with FIS. Students from countries as diverse as the People's Republic of China and India to Australia, Egypt, Germany and Greece wish to meet American friends.

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

Families as well as single people may volunteer for the program. FIS volunteers represent all age groups, from students to senior citizens. FIS is a flexible program. There are no set activities or time commitments. Although the program encourages people to meet at least once a month, others meet more often.

For more information about the picnic, call Susan Fullenkamp at 341-3783 or Ethel Bontrager at (319) 656-2481. FIS representatives are also available to give a slide show presentation to churches, area organizations, clubs or other groups. Call Bontrager to schedule a speaking engagement.

To get involved with the FIS program, call (319) 335-0343 or send e-mail to

OISS 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 the Friends of International Students and the International Women’s Club. Call 335-0335, or visit the office in 120 IC, weekdays 1 to 4 p.m.

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 for International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.

The OISS is located in the International Center on the UI campus. The International Center is located at the end of Ferson Avenue in Iowa City, off of Park Road.