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Friendship Family Program

Pickleball with Friendship Families

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 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. Friendship families play an important part in helping international students adjust to Whitman and the U.S. during the school year. Host families and students 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:

  1. Friendship Family Student Application
  2. Friendship Family Application

What is the Friendship Family Program?

It is a non-residential friendship program. Our goal is to connect international students with local families to develop a friendship and spend time together, engaging in activities that are enriching for both the student 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. The friendship family and student 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 visitors (who typically 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 to 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 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.
  • 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 and families do together?

Friendship families and students establish and define a relationship that works for both parties. Many get together at least once per month. How individual families and students 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 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.
  • Families are not expected to provide housing for their students. 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

  • Students are expected to communicate with their friendship family. This includes returning phone calls, text messages, and emails. In U.S. culture, it is more acceptable to decline an invitation than to not respond at all.
  • Students should be mindful that friendship families are invested in the program and have dedicated time and energy to getting to know them.
  • Students 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 to offer to pay for themselves and to always thank families for their generosity and kindness.

How are families and students matched?

  • We consider preferences and interests expressed in the application from both parties and match the families to students 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 or families ever have concerns about the relationship, or it is just not working out, please contact us at ISSS@Whitman.edu.

Office Information
  • Memorial Building 205
    345 Boyer Ave.
    Walla Walla, WA 99362
  • Email or Call to Schedule a Virtual Advising Appt.
  • 509-527-4992
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