International Friendship Program

The International Friendship Program (IFP) is a cross-cultural exchange program that connects members of the St. Olaf and Northfield communities with first-year international students. The program offers participants the opportunity to build friendships through mutual cultural discussion and exchange.

For more information or to apply to this program, click the appropriate box below.studentsvolunteers

General FAQs:

How are participants matched?

International Students and Friendship Program Volunteers fill out an interest form. Matching is then conducted based on mutual interests the summer prior to student arrival.

How do matched participants meet?

A meet & greet event will be organized by the Center for Multicultural and International Engagement for the first meeting. Once a match is made, the participants determine how they would like to shape their interactions.

How long is the program?

This program is intended for international students in their first year at St. Olaf. However, if both parties agree, they are welcome to optionally continue the relationship beyond the first year.

What are the requirements to participate in the program?

This program is open to all international students in their first year at St. Olaf. Local participants can be St. Olaf faculty or staff, and/or members of the Northfield community. As this is a St. Olaf sponsored program, all participants are required to sign and submit an Agreement Form prior to program participation.

Student Agreement Form
Friendship Volunteer Agreement Form

*How to submit the Agreement Form*


Testimonials from Participants



When I began participating in the Family Friendship program four years ago, I didn’t have any idea how important Clara would become to me, or how much she and her friends’ presence would enrich my life. We developed a special relationship that I believe will be life long. I am an Ole, and participating in this program has been a wonderful way to stay connected with the college.

— Friendship Volunteer




“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