Friends of International Students

Friends of International Students (FIS) match international students, scholars and their accompanying families with people in the Shoals who are interested in meeting and helping them during their studies. FIS promotes global awareness, understanding, friendship and intercultural learning between the students and members of the community. If you are a UNA international student wanting to participate in this program, please click here to apply now.

Who can be an FIS Friend?

Anyone genuinely interested in international exchange on a personal level is encouraged to become a friend. There is no typical volunteer – they are young and old, single individuals and married couples, young families and senior citizens. Like Americans in general, participants come from all walks of life and have all kinds of experiences.

What will I gain from the experience?

As a volunteer, you and your family will enjoy the personal pleasure of getting to know a student who may come from a different background, yet who will share the value of cross-cultural friendship. You will have the opportunity to learn about the cultural, religious and political beliefs and personal background of your student in a way that comes only from an ongoing relationship. Your student may be far from home and in a different culture, often struggling with the English language and the demands of academic life and will appreciate having an individual who offers hospitality and friendship. Many friends maintain contact with their students long after the student has returned home.

What is expected of FIS Friends?

Once volunteers and students are matched, they can decide what they would like to do together, depending on their time and mutual interests.

Here are some guidelines and suggestions:

  • Friends are encouraged to meet with their students at least once a month.
  • Consider normal activities, whether it be family gatherings, going to the movies, or outdoor activities, as a way to get to know your student.
  • Including students on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day is not mandatory. Some students may travel during periods that the University is closed.
  • Many students also enjoy inviting their friends to their activities – perhaps cooking a meal, going to a UNA event, or some other similar occasion.
  • There are also occasional FIS sponsored events to which all friends and students are invited to attend.
  • Students live in University housing or in off-campus apartments. They will not live in your home.
  • Friends keep open line of communicate with Program Coordinator regarding participation, for example: student availabilty, changes in  addresses or when it is time for a new student match.


How do I get matched with a student?

Fill out a friend application. Apply Here We try to match the interests and other requests made by the applicants, but do ask that you be open to a variety of students that come to UNA. We usually have single students as well as students with families, and you can ask to be matched with more than one student.

Contact your student when you are informed of your match. It is important to make your first connection as soon as you can, as often students have been here several weeks before we can arrange an FIS match.

Attend our New Friend Orientation.
Orientation for new FIS friends normally takes place early in each academic semester. During orientation you will be provided more information about FIS, ideas on things to do with your student as well as resources to answer questions that will inevitably arise. The Office of International Affairs is always available to assist volunteers in any way necessary.