Friendship Family Program
The Friendship Family Program is a non-residential friendship program. Our goal is to introduce international students and scholars to a local family who will befriend them, introduce them to the local community, support their student or scholar's experience at Whitman, and enjoy the opportunity for cultural exchange.
Friendship families provide a "home experience away from home" for students whose families are often very far away and often play an important part in helping international students adjust to Whitman and the U.S. During the school year, host families and students/scholars establish and define a relationship that works for both parties. Many get together once a month, and the Intercultural Center organizes three structured on-campus events to bring international visitors and their host families together as a group each academic year. If you would like to participate in the program, please fill out an application:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Friendship Family Program?
- It is a non-residential friendship program. Our goal is to connect international students and scholars with local families in order to develop a friendship and spend time together, engaging in activities that are enriching for both the student/scholar and the family.
- There is no expectation that families will provide room and board.
- Friendship families provide a "home experience away from home" for students and visiting scholars. The friendship family and student/scholar mutually decide what kinds of interactions and activities work best for everyone involved. Additionally, the Intercultural Center sponsors three on-campus events (fall, winter, and spring) for all program participants.
Who are the students?
- Every fall Whitman welcomes a large group of international students (who typically stay for four years), as well as a few exchange students (who typically stay for one year), and five language assistants (who stay for one year). Our students and scholars come from more than 40 countries from around the world. Some of them have experience with living in countries/regions other than that of their origin and they are familiar with multiple cultures. For some, coming to Whitman is their first visit to the U.S., while others may have lived in the U.S. prior to coming to Whitman.
Who are the friendship families?
- Friendship families range from large families with children, single parents, young couples, retirees and singles. All families are local volunteers interested in cultural exchange, and are willing to dedicate their time and energy in building a friendly relationship throughout a student or scholar's stay at Whitman. Many families are Whitman staff, faculty or alumni.
Why should I apply to be a friendship family?
- As a friendship family, you will have the opportunity to interact with a student with an international background, and hopefully build a meaningful relationship throughout their time at Whitman. You and your family will learn about your student or scholar's country, culture and language, and you can share a little bit about your life and American culture with them. Sometimes students/scholars become integrated members of their friendship families, and it is not uncommon for them to continue their relationship after they graduate.
As a student, why should I apply to have a friendship family?
- A friendship family can serve as a really valuable connection point, friend, and resource for you throughout your time at Whitman. They can help you with your transition into life in the U.S. by introducing you to a new place and culture. Students and scholars often find that spending time with their friendship families off-campus is a great way to take a break from academic life at Whitman, explore Walla Walla, and have a home away from home.
- Having a friendship family also provides a great opportunity for cultural exchange. Your family will be interested in learning about your culture and background and it is a great way to share more about your life in your home country.
- Students sometimes share that having a friendship family is a highlight of their experience at Whitman, and sometimes families and students continue their relationship after they have graduated.
What do students/scholars and families do together?
- Friendship families and students/scholars establish and define a relationship that works for both parties. Many get together at least once per month. How individual families and students/scholars spend their time varies, but some of the most common activities are:
- Dinner at family's house off-campus.
- Holiday celebrations such as pumpkin carving for Halloween, Thanksgiving dinners, and Christmas activities and celebrations.
- Attending local events.
- In addition, our office organizes three on-campus events throughout the year to bring students and scholars and their friendship families together.
What is expected of friendship families?
- Families are encouraged to attend the Intercultural Center-sponsored events that are scheduled during the year.
- Spending time with their student or scholar in person a couple of times throughout the semester.
What is NOT expected of friendship families?
- Families are not expected to spend money on their students or scholars.
- Families are not expected to provide housing for their students or scholars. Whitman will provide housing for international students for all breaks when the residence halls are closed.
- Families are not expected to provide frequent transportation. Many families are happy to occasionally help out with transportation; this is not the purpose of the program, but a friendly and helpful gesture.
What is expected of students/scholars?
- Students/scholars are expected to communicate with their friendship family. This includes returning phone calls, text messages and emails. In US culture, it is more acceptable to decline an invitation than to not respond at all.
- Students/scholars should be mindful that friendship families are invested in the program and have dedicated time and energy to getting to know their student.
- Students/scholars should keep in mind that this is a volunteer program. Friendship families are not reimbursed for any expenses that may be incurred, and it is appropriate for students and scholars to offer to pay for themselves, and highly encouraged to always thank families for their generosity and kindness.
What is the application process for families?
- Applications for families are accepted on a rolling basis. Please find the application here. Once we have processed your application, we will notify you of your application status.
How are families and students/scholars matched?
- We consider preferences and interests expressed in the application from both parties, and match the families to students/scholars accordingly.
- Some preferences we take into account include geographic origins, languages spoken, and gender. We also take into account preferences regarding families with/without children or pets, smokers vs. non-smokers, and anything else you'd like us to take into account.
What if I have concerns or the family relationship is not working out?
- If students/scholars or families ever have concerns about the relationship, or it is just not working out, don't hesitate to contact Maggi Banderas with your concerns.