The Friendship Family program is a cross-cultural exchange program that has been in existence for many years at St. Olaf. Friendship families are often St. Olaf faculty and staff or people from the Northfield community and surrounding areas that wish to befriend a new international student. They get together several times during the year, perhaps for family events, a trip to the cities, or just to hang out in an American home environment. In that way, both students and families are able to exchange ideas, cultures, and friendship.
How are students and families paired?
In the beginning of the school year we ask the students and families to fill out interest forms. Those forms will help us to decide the pairing. Students are paired with Friendship families in late summer. Soon after that, there will be a gathering where students can meet with their host families.
Testimonials from students and Friendship families
“We said ‘yes’ to being a Friendship Family not knowing exactly what to expect, but anticipating that it would be a good experience for our whole family—and we were right about that. The experience has been a blessing for us in so many ways; we’ve learned about a new culture and have found it to be fun to share some of our own traditions through a new perspective. We’ve seen our three kids grow and learn, and they interact with our Friendship Student like a big brother. He has become part of our family, and we love that he feels comfortable with us, whether we are visiting a museum, shopping, sharing a family celebration or a meal in our home. We’re going on our fourth year together, and hope our friendship will continue.” –Northfield family
“The Friendship family program here at St. Olaf has been a great resource for me in multiple ways. I have some wonderful memories of the times I’ve spent with my Friendship family (who are Oles too) carving pumpkins in Halloween or having a great big meal in Thanksgiving. My first year in college as an international student, I was nervous about how things will work out for me. Thankfully, my Friendship family helped me immensely in adjusting in America. Be it as simple yet important as taking me to Mall of America to buy a winter coat, or inviting me to go to Minnesota Zoo just for fun, my Friendship family has helped me in every way possible to make my college life memorable, comfortable and overall much more exciting.” –Student, Nepal
“It has been a great experience getting to know our student. We have learned a bit about his home, family, and traditions, and he has joined us in some of ours as well. We are thankful for this opportunity to be a friend to him and think it’s neat for our kids to have a ‘big brother’ type relationship with him as well. It’s nice for these college students to be able to get away from campus and visit the regular happenings of ‘family life’ in town-especially when they are so far from their own homes. I hope we can keep communication open even after our friend graduates!” –Northfield family
I am grateful about the Friendship Family program at St. Olaf. As an international student it is important to connect with students on campus as much as connect to the community outside of St. Olaf. In this sense, it has been great getting to know my Friendship family. They are caring people, eager to meet new people, learn about me and my background and do anything possible to make me feel at home. The important family values that my friendship holds have given me a warm family atmosphere, far away from home. I hope the program will be as enjoyable for all students as it has been for me. –Student, Albania