Forming Links Across the Globe or FLAG is the new name for the program formerly called “Friends of Macalester International Students” (FOMIS), which began at Macalester over 30 years ago. FLAG will continue the original mission of FOMIS: to foster intercultural connections between international students and members of the local community, and to encourage learning about different cultures and perspectives. (FOMIS was put on hold in 2020 and is being reintroduced as FLAG in the fall of 2023.)
FLAG welcomes applications from international students and members of the Macalester community of staff and faculty. Unlike FOMIS, FLAG is not a host family program and is not open to participation from community members outside of Macalester. FLAG consists of small groups of international students who are matched by ISP with a participating FLAG host. The FLAG host will organize two meals/outings per semester with their group of international students. FLAG continues to be administered by Macalester College International Student Programs.
What can you expect if you plan to participate?
The expectation is that 1 FLAG host will be grouped with between 2-4 international students, although overall numbers depend on how many students and hosts apply to participate.
ISP will coordinate groups of students for each FLAG host, and each group will likely consist of at least one to two rising sophomores/juniors/seniors and one or more first-year international student(s).
Participants should expect to make a one-year commitment to the program, and then may choose to continue or opt out.
FLAG hosts agree to coordinate at least two activities per semester with their international student group.
ISP aims to communicate the FLAG student-host groupings around the start of fall semester.
We continue to share these reflections on the former FOMIS program, which went on hold in 2020. FOMIS involved “friendship families” and was structured differently than the new FLAG program will be in the fall of 2023. Even though activities will be more group-oriented as we move ahead with FLAG, we think these testimonials from previous participants reflect the many positive relationship-building experiences that participants will similarly enjoy in the new FLAG program.
“I joined the host family in my first year at Mac and know for a fact that my experience and growth here in the twin cities would not have been as productive without them. The support, the love, the guidance, the adventures and the sense of family has helped me in different areas of my life. And this is only the beginning of a lifetime relationship.”
Nteranya Arnold Sanginga ’18, Democratic Republic of Congo
“I really love my host family, and they have been a huge and integral part of my Macalester experience. They are a young Mac alum couple and it has been great to have them as a resource for advice on my life at Mac and in the Twin Cities. We also have a lot of interests in common, including a passion for food and cooking. We meet nearly every week to cook and eat dinner together. It is wonderful to get to be in a home environment from time to time, and a good opportunity to get out of the Mac bubble.”
Sheena Diong ’17, Singapore
“We were paired with a freshman student in the fall of 2014, and have continued our relationship with our host student. In fact, she is like a family member to us and we miss her dearly over the summer months!” Courtney Standish, St. Paul, host since 2014
“We have been so blessed to have been a (friendship) 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 to 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 backyard. 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 an international student now.”
Suzanne Hansen, 2013
“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
“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 to know a new friend from Mac each year and welcome them into 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
“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
“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 who apply to participate will start the program in the fall of 2023. Each participating FLAG Host will determine two times per semester for their group to gather for an outing or activity that could involve seeing a new part of the Twin Cities and/or enjoying a meal off-campus. Planning the details is a task that falls to the FLAG Host, who is also a Macalester employee. Any gatherings in addition to these two core gatherings per semester fall outside the official purview of the program. We ask for an initial commitment of one year, after which time participants are asked to indicate whether they wish to continue in the program for the following year. In the past, nearly all have chosen to continue. It is possible for students who did not join in their first year to join the program in a later year, should they decide later on that they would like to be involved in the program.
A FLAG host must be an employee of Macalester College. FLAG hosts are single and married, young and old, with and without children, from various 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 others from another part of the world.
What is expected
A FLAG host agrees to organize two meals/outings each semester and coordinates transportation as needed for their group of students.
What is not expected
The FLAG program does not involve a home stay. FLAG hosts are not expected to help students with problems such as providing lodging/housing during breaks or during the academic year, with financial needs or difficulties, legal matters, any kind of immigration matters, or serious medical or personal problems. Participants are asked to respect each other’s religious and cultural identities, not enforce or impose their own beliefs and practices, and be mindful of activities that may make someone uncomfortable.
Our students are a tremendously diverse group, hailing from over 60 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.
What is expected
Your FLAG host may invite you to visit their home and participate in 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 your FLAG host as fulfilling as possible. The expectations are:
- Make and respond to phone calls/texts and invitations
- Make an earnest effort to participate in the group activities organized by the FLAG host
- Share your perspectives and ideas with your FLAG host and group members
- Be open to ideas, activities, styles, and customs of your FLAG host and other members of your group
What is not expected
Your FLAG host is not expected to help you with problems such as finding a place to stay during the break periods or academic year, financial needs or difficulties, legal matters, any kind of immigration matters, or serious medical or personal problems.