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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 10, 2006

Friends Of International Students 35th Anniversary Picnic Aug. 19

On Saturday, Aug. 19, Friends of International Students (FIS) will celebrate 35 years of fostering friendships between international students and American friends, and promoting greater understanding across the world, with their annual fall picnic in City Park.

No registration is required to attend. All international students and any individuals hoping to befriend international students are welcome to attend the two-hour potluck dinner, held in Shelter No. 6 at City Park, from 4 to 6 p.m. Friends who are already matched with a student are invited to attend with their student and bring food to share. Any person interested in becoming a Friend is asked to fill out an application at the picnic. Students are not required to bring food but may if they wish, and FIS will provide free soft drinks and table service.

FIS is a non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Iowa Office of International Students and Scholars and is run by community volunteers. The main goal of FIS is to give international students and their American friends an opportunity to gain new perspectives on the world through an exchange of ideas, said FIS President Caryl Lyons.

"Some of us think that the world is in such a mess and the only way things will get better is if people from other cultures get to know each other and get rid of the stereotypes," Lyons said. "It's really about friendship and cultural exchange - some students come here and stay for a year, or even five years, and never get inside the home of an American family."

But as part of the Aug. 8-19 International Student Orientation through the OISS, the picnic, planned for the last day of orientation, will provide newly arriving UI students with an introduction to their new environment and American life on campus and in the wider community, as well as a chance to meet new American friends.

In the past 35 years, FIS has worked to form bonds between American individuals or families and individuals or families from many different cultures. Last fall the organization made about 115 matches between international students and Friends. But several dozen students who applied never received a match because there weren't enough volunteers, Lyons said.

"It's when you first get here that you really need somebody to let you know what America is like," she said. "It's one of the things we do to show that Americans do take time to make friends and get to know other cultures. International students may not get that impression through classes because people are so busy."

Once matched, volunteers and students can choose how they'd like to spend their meetings, which can be once a week or only once a month, depending on each person's schedule. While Lyons said she and her husband recently attended a county fair with their student from China, she said activities often range from movie watching to ice-skating.

OISS is part of UI International Programs, which consists 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.

For more information about the picnic, call Sandra Bolton, FIS board member, at 319-626-5804 or visit the FIS Web site at:

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026,; Program: Scott King, 319-335-0335,, or Caryl Lyons, 319-626-6277,; Writer: Erika Binegar.

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