A-Z Index

Friends of International Students

General Information

What is FIS?

FIS is a community-based organization established to match interested area individuals and families (friends) with international students at Northwest. The program goals are to provide support to the students as they become adjusted to their new home and to promote friendship and understanding between people of different nationalities.

Who is involved?

FIS matches two groups of people. The first is Northwest Missouri State University international students. Many international students are drawn to the opportunity to have a ‘home away from home’, make friendships, and experience American culture through family and community events. As students become more familiar with the community they also become more active citizens.

Friends are interested community members. Single people, families, retirees, etc. can all become Friends to international students. Friends apply because they want to share their time and talents with others. Having an interest in helping others and a desire to learn more about another culture is all that is required. The diversity of the Friends adds a special flare to the program as these people gather for small group and group activities.

What do Friends and students do?

Friends and students are asked to make contact once a month during their year-long commitment to the program. Contact can take many forms. Family dinners, attending sporting events, going through a Halloween haunted house, raking leaves together, a quick phone call or text...

Friends and students can spend as much or as little time together as their schedules allow. This allows each relationship to be individual and special. From the feedback received from Friends and students alike, this program is both enriching and enjoyable.

In addition to the individualized contact, FIS holds two group events each year. At the fall picnic, Friends and students may meet in person for the first time. The second event is in the spring and usually consists of a potluck and interesting cultural presentations.

Guidelines for Friends

Friends of International Students (FIS)

FIS is a visitation, not a home-stay program. Student and friend assignments are normally for a period of one year. The relationship may continue well beyond that year, but we hope friends will make themselves available to another student each year.

Student & Friend

If the student and friend are not compatible for any reason, it is reasonable and possible to make a change. Do not be unhappy about the situation or simply neglect to contact the student. Email us at and relate your problem.  If your student seems to be having a difficult time adjusting to the life in the United States, please inform us immediately.

Religion and Culture

Religion and religious institutions constitute an important aspect of our culture in the United States that international students should have an opportunity to learn about and observe, if desired. However, the policy of the National Association of International Educators (NAFSA), as well as Friends of International Students is that proselytizing is not permitted. Students may be invited to attend services with you, particularly during religious holidays, but the nature of the event as well as its sponsorship should be made clear to the student.

Friends are also encouraged to attend the student’s religious and cultural events to broaden their own cultural understanding.  Research your student’s country. Locate their home on a map or atlas. Ask about their family, their hometown, their country and customs.

Student/Friend Activities

Friends and students are asked to make contact at least once each month. It may be only to inquire about health and well-being or it may be for an invitation. The thought is the important thing. Keep in contact to show your interest, and let your student know you are available.

  • Friend invitations must be flexible. Students are here primarily for education. Classes, studying, and research make great demands on their time. Several invitations may be required to get friends and students together. Unforeseen circumstances such as exams or research projects may create problems with planned activities. Friends should verify planned activities with students as the activity date approaches.
  • Some cultures consider saying “no” to be rude or insulting. Friends should clearly explain that an invitation could be declined without offense to the host.
  • Most students do not have automobiles. Friends should offer to provide transportation to and from planned student/friend activities.
  • Inclusion of your student in your family’s informal living situation is encouraged. If possible, students should be invited to Thanksgiving dinner and some activities during the Christmas season and semester breaks. Other suggested activities include family birthday parties, school activities, sporting events, concerts, lectures, and special holiday celebrations such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Independence Day, etc.
  • Students may enjoy preparing traditional foods from their homeland for friends. Friends could offer to reimburse or share in the cost of the ingredients and offer the use of their kitchen.



Apply to be a Friend

Guidelines for Students

Students and Friends are assigned to each other for one school year. (You’ll be FIS Friends until May [December for NUIS students].)  Many relationships continue beyond that time, and we hope yours will too.

You and your Friend should try to get together or at least talk with each other at least once a month—more often is better if both of you have time. Don’t wait for your Friend to call you every time.  Feel free to call your Friend, too.

Every relationship between a student and a Friend will be different. Some people will have more time to spend together. Don’t feel bad if another student is invited out more often than you.

Take time to enjoy your relationship. If you are busy with school, feel free to tell your Friend you don’t have time then, but let them know you are interested in spending time with them. Your academics come first, but remember that it is good to take a break once in a while.

When your Friend has had you over or done something nice for you, it is appropriate to send a note saying “thank you” or to call them and say “thank you” over the phone.

After you have gotten to know your Friend, you may want to offer to cook something from your country for them.  Show them and tell them what kinds of foods are eaten in your country.

Your Friend will be interested in your family and your country.  You may want to take photos of your family or books about your country to share and tell them about your culture.

If you feel something is not quite right in your relationship with your Friend, please contact us at W are happy to help you and advise you.

Your Friend may invite you to go to his/her church, but he/she should not try to make you change your religion. If it is permissible within your own religious practices, going to an American church could be a unique and interesting experience for you.

Watch for activities that FIS sponsors and attend them.  Try to attend with your Friend. If he/she doesn’t call you, call him/her. Please join the event even if your Friend cannot come.

If you and your Friend are not compatible, it is very possible to make a change. Contact the FIS officers at

Make the most of your stay in Maryville. If there is something you would particularly like to do or see, ask your Friend. He or she may be available to take you or advise you.

Apply to find a Friend