Weekly Spotlight: International Friends Program

Check out the program that helps international students get adjusted to FAU.

Photo courtesy of the International Friends Program.

Photo courtesy of the International Friends Program.

Brittany Ferrendi, Staff Writer

Welcome to the Weekly Spotlight, where you can grab all the important info about on-campus organizations in one easy place.

The University Press spoke with Mihaela Metianu, the director of International Student and Scholar Services, and Qingqing Chui, a graduate assistant, to learn more about the International Friends Program.

The IFP helps FAU’s 800 international students assimilate with ease to university life by matching them up with current students. We asked Metianu and Chui a few questions about the organization. View their answers below:

UP: What can you tell me about the International Friends Program?

The International Friends Program began in 2009 as an international peer mentoring initiative. Most universities have a similar group of students who welcome and assist international students in navigating their new surroundings and becoming familiar and comfortable with academic, extracurricular and social life at FAU and in the Boca Raton area. I felt that it was important for FAU to have a similar group.

UP: What is the IFP motto or mission statement?

The International Friends Program provides opportunities for current FAU students — domestic and international — to serve as international welcome ambassadors, orientation leaders, or peer mentors. The program promotes cultural exchange and friendships among U.S. and international students, intercultural communication and opportunities for student involvement in international activities across the university.

UP: What are the values behind your program?

The values behind this program are creating a welcoming environment for all students regardless of what country or culture they come from, promoting cultural learning, understanding and interactions among the U.S. and international students and providing opportunities for involvement through globally-focused campus activities.

UP: What has been the biggest achievement your organization has made in the past?

Several IFP members decided to embark in study abroad opportunities; others used their leadership experience to pursue careers in higher education (a former IFP member is now assistant dean of students at Clark University; another serves as an International Student Advisor at Virginia Tech). Our biggest achievements are to see the participants succeed.

UP: What is the next big goal that your program plans to achieve?

We plan to expand the scope of the program by developing three options for engagement rather than just one large, general program (students can be involved in one or more of these options):

International ambassadors – students who will serve as campus guides to international visitors, assist in greeting and welcoming students and other individuals into our office and at special events

International peer mentors – students who will be paired with international students in a buddy system and assist these new international students in navigating their first semester or year here at FAU

International orientation leaders – students who will help us implement pre-arrival and orientation activities to ensure the smoothest transition for international students in matriculating

UP: When and where does the International Friends Program meet?

We meet through trainings or at ISSS events sponsored by IFP. We recently hired Yekaterina Davis, PhD, as assistant director in our office, and she will help develop a more regular meeting and training schedule and also a more substantial leadership training model for the IFP members.

UP: How many students does the International Friends Program serve?

Every year we have approximately 18–20 IFP mentors. We plan to increase the number to around 40 for next year. During fall 15, 334 students participated in IFP events …

UP: Your group has an event coming up. Coffee Hour: Lunar (Asian) New Year takes place on Feb. 18. Could you tell us a bit about what will go on?

ISSS will invite the Chinese student association and Chinese Language Club to participate with an activity such as calligraphy practicing. Also, we invite all students to share their culture and signature event during new year with discussions. Lanterns are provided so students can put them together for decoration. Trivia question winners will have red envelopes with ancient coin copy gifts inside. Oriental snacks will be served at the event as well.It is a great opportunity for all international students to celebrate. This is a cross-culture learning opportunity.

A full list of upcoming events can be found below.

Events Spring 2016 Schedule (2)

Brittany Ferrendi is a staff writer for the University Press. If you would like to contact her regarding this or other articles, email her at [email protected].