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The Friends of Macalester International Students (FoMIS) Host Family Program places Twin Cities area residents and Macalester international students together for a cross-cultural exchange. The program gives international students an opportunity to meet people in the U.S. and helps both hosts and students learn about different cultures and perspectives. The group of hosts is very diverse, ranging form recent college graduates, families with young children or teenage/college age children, to retired individuals and couples. FoMIS has existed for over 30 years and now includes approximately 170 families and 200 students. It is administered by Macalester College International Student Programs.
ISP tries to match as closely as possible the interests and preferences expressed by hosts and students. Certain requests, however, such as nationality or language, depend on the changing profile of the incoming student cohort, and cannot always be met. Most students are matched with hosts at the end of August, just before the beginning of the academic year.
Who to contact?
Please feel free to contact the following International Student Programs staff members with any concerns or questions you may have regarding your student or the Host Family Program.
"We have been so blessed to have been a Host Family for the past few years. Building relationships with such amazing young people and experiencing our community through their perspective has been among the best things of being involved in the program. We've done everything from attend dance and music performances to going the the Home and Garden Show and The State Fair. We even celebrated Guatemalan Independence Day recently with our host student's first introduction to cheese curds. I had no idea how much insight we would gain into things that we take for granted in our own back yard. It's been a pleasure to include host students in family activities, and we love comparing customs between our country and theirs. We've been fortunate as well to meet students' friends and family members when they've come to visit as well. We continue to remain in contact with previous host students, and although we haven't traveled to visit anyone yet, there's a possible trip to Oslo on our horizon." Dennis Taylor and Mark Sauerbrey, 2013
"ISP matched our family well with our international student, Pukitta. We've included her in trips to our cabin, included her in holiday dinners, and even took her to the Boundary Waters one year before school started. It's fascinating to see what she notices from the regular activities. She loved digging snow tunnels at our cabin with our 9 year old son. Our son and nephews think she is the best! I've also been able to support her when she needed a local "mom".
I traveled widely when I was younger, but extensive travel is not practical for me at this point in my life. Hosting an international student keeps me in touch with my old traveling side. When I traveled, so many people helped me out; I'm glad to be of help to a international student now." Suzanne Hansen, 2013
"I have enjoyed being part of the host family program for many years. It has been a pleasure for me, my family and friends to get know a new friend from Mac each year and welcome them in to our life in Minnesota. It is great fun having our day-to-day world seen with fresh and new eyes.Things we take for granted or just experience day in and day out are brand new when seen for the first time – like walking on a frozen lake or discovering “strike anywhere” matches. And of course there are all the great things the Mac International students bring from their world and share back. I have been honored to meet many wonderful young people. They have enriched my life as well as the lives of my family and friends. As they leave to take on the world it has been wonderful to stay in touch and continue to share our lives and hear of their new life adventures." Dennis Cashman, St. Paul, host since 2004
"My host family is great! In the beginning of the year, Sue took me to Target to buy things for my room, and to the social security office for my social security number. It was great to be able to get off campus every now and then, and meet a family from the Cities. It has been nice getting to know them and learn about the US and the area by talking to them. Having a host family has been rewarding in many ways, even in small ones like having a place to bring my plant to during the winter holidays. They also came to watch my dance performances and I really appreciated that.I particularly like the fact that there is no pressure in meeting up but we check in with each other to see how things are going because we like to do so." Claire Schuch '11, The Netherlands
"I read in the Macalester Bulletin that there was a need for host families for international students. I responded saying I didn't know if I was qualified but I would love to help out if I fit the criteria. Little did I know that I would be the one who gained the most. I am here for occasional moral support, dinner or activity. But I have received so much more from my international children, Noel and Eleni. They have given our family love, a different perspective and hopefully a relationship that will last forever." Toni Schrantz, Shoreview, host since 1998
"I'm having a gorgeous time with my host family. They care about me very much and we hang out together every two or three weeks. Last Thanksgiving they even took me to Dennis's parents' house in Randall, MN! I appreciate that they are doing their best to let me get more contact with every aspect of the US society. Vice versa, I believe their experience with me must be rewarding as well. Especially as their oldest son is studying in a Chinese immersion elementary school, Chinese culture is always an interesting topic between us and I can often help teach some simple Chinese." Chen Gu '11, China
"When I first started hosting students many years ago, my own children were small, and it was great having such amazing "big brothers and sisters" as role models for them. Now that my kids are young adults and away from home, the international students give me the opportunity to spend time with some incredible young people. I'm still in contact with most of my graduates, and feel that my family truly expands the globe!" Marilyn Cragoe, Minneapolis, host since 1995
Students start the program the fall semester of their first year. The time commitment does not need to be great, and the reward can be tremendous! The amount of time each host and student spend together varies, depending on the schedules of both. On average, most hosts and students get together about once a month. We ask for an initial commitment of one academic year, at which time hosts and students are asked to indicate whether they wish to continue in the program for the following year. Almost everybody does! It is possible for upperclassmen to join the program during the fall semester, should they decide, later on, that they would like to be involved in the program.
There are several group activities planned throughout the year, including our welcome reception in September, an international potluck in February, and various optional cultural activities throughout the year.
Expectations for host families
What is expected
A FoMIS host is the student's link to the larger Twin Cities community, providing them with a glimpse of life outside Macalester's campus. As a host, you might invite your student to your home for a meal, explore the Twin Cities together, introduce the student to your friends and family, talk on the phone, remember birthdays and other special occasions and/or attend Macalester events together.
What is not expected
Unlike many host family programs, FoMIS does not involve a home stay. Although families may decide to house student during breaks, there is no expectation to do so. Families are also not expected to help students with problems such as financial needs or difficulties, legal matters, any kind of immigration matters, or serious medical or personal problems. Host are asked to respect a student's religious and cultural identities, not enforcing their own and being mindful of activities that may make a student uncomfortable.
Our students are a tremendously diverse group, hailing from over 80 countries. Most of them will spend four years at Macalester pursuing undergraduate degrees, although there are a few on shorter exchange programs, or who transfer to Macalester from other institutions as sophomores or juniors.
Expectations for students
What is expected
Your host(s) may invite you to visit their home and participate in numerous activities that provide opportunities to learn about the way of life in the U.S. and to make friends in the community. The four main expectations of students in this program will help make your relationship with you host(s) as fulfilling as possible. The expectations are:
- Make and respond to phone calls and invitations
- Spend time either on or off-campus with your host family on a regular basis
- Share your perspectives and ideas with your host family
- Be open to ideas, activities, styles, and customs of your host
What is not expected
Your host(s) are not expected to help you with problems such as finding a place to stay during the academic year or vacation periods, financial needs or difficulties, legal matters, any kind of immigration matters, or serious medical or personal problems.
Anybody living in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area is eligible to be part of FoMIS. While many of our hosts live in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding Macalester, many also live in Minneapolis and the suburban areas. Our hosts are single and married, young and old, with and without children, from all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life. The one thing they have in common is an interest in the world and in learning about other cultures, and a willingness to share a bit of their own lives with someone from another part of the world.