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BiH Youth Leadership Fall 2014: Welcome to Seattle

Posted by Ellen Frierson at Oct 31, 2014 01:20 PM |
Four blog posts from high school students learning about community service - and much more - during four weeks in the United States.

From learning about tolerance and diversity to volunteering at local food banks and creating their own political ads, the Youth Leadership Program participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina have accomplished a lot in their first week! Read blog posts below from Pavle, Elena, Damir, and Ana to learn more about their experiences so far.



Tolerance is a Turtle - by Pavle Koljančić

Hi, I'm Pavle. I am a sixteen year old student from Bosnia and Herzegovina. I came here to the US as a participant in the Youth Leadership Program. The story that I want to tell starts in the pre-departure program in Sarajevo, there the FIUTS staff was talking about tolerance in the US, and to give us an example, they told us a joke . The joke went like this:

“One guy walks up to the other and says I believe that the world stands on top of giant turtle that created everything, and the other guy answers: that is stupid… and I respect that.”

Back then I thought that they were just telling us that so we would ourselves tolerate others and differences and I didn't believe that it was true that people act like that. So for my first weekend, I stayed with Dave, a FIUTS homestay host. He is a 60 year old, retired electric engineer  and a veteran of the Vietnam war . On Sunday he took me to an Asian store while he was protesting on a crossroad for an hour and he told me he does that, the protesting, every Sunday with others. That was kind of surprising to me. So while I was walking through the Asian store I heard people talking in different languages, there were a lot of Asian products from living crabs to original Japanese sake and I realized that was their own microcosms, their own little world. The first thought that came to my mind: “How does that work ?”

I  mean that could never work in my country, people just wouldn’t stand it, there would be violence. So when I went out of the store to the crossroad where Dave was protesting I saw him, a 60 year old guy, protesting on a crossroad, about things that don't really affect him at all - like the minimum wages and involvement of the US in the Middle East.  And that’s the point it got to my mind. There maybe were people that dislike the Asian stores, restaurants etc., but they tolerate it and there are people for sure that disagree with Dave’s protesting and opinions but they tolerate it and they respect his right of free speech.

And it’s that respect that they show to others that they demand for themselves. You have to tolerate their opinions and beliefs.

So I thought to myself at the beginning, well if they tolerate it that doesn't mean that they like it. So I thought at first it was just covering up the real tensions, but then I thought what would happen if people in my country were like that, if they tolerated each other, that wouldn't destroy the tension at first but people would finally talk more about differences and from that talk, understanding would arise and - with understanding and communication - national, cultural, and ethnic tensions would be lowered.


The Adventure Begins - by Elena Ourdan

Hi everyone. My name is Elena and I'm one of the 2014 YLP participants from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Two days ago, in the peace and quiet of our retreat center came a man called Bernie. The center is located in the mountains, and its purpose is to adapt us to our new environment and our teammates. He showed us some group exercises we would have to do. They looked entertaining. But in the next hours, as we struggled with accomplishing our tasks, we learned some valuable life lessons.

One of the exercises was to build a bridge across marked places on the grass, so the entire team could go from one side of the maze to another. Since we didn't have enough planks to build that bridge, we were asked by Bernie to come up with a system of moving those wooden boards repeatedly, allowing every participant to cross to the other side.

After almost an hour of arguing, failing and trying over and over again, we succeeded in our mission of building a sort of draw bridge. But it was only then that we realized the solution of arranging the planks had already been suggested by four different people throughout the game. It showed that we weren't paying enough attention to what the other members of the team had to say.

That's when we understood what it was to be a team. Ignoring each other's suggestions and showing that little respect to one another was simply not acceptable. As the exercises went by, we started learning from our mistakes and became more of a compatible group, helping each other out any being more patient.

Working as a team is important. An idea can be improved if more people are involved and if they can help each other. Rather than being subjective, if more minds are working on it, it is more likely that the result will be better. In the next four weeks of the program, I know we will be able to learn how to function as a real team, and I'm sure we're progressing and learning something new every single day.


Tuesday, October 28 - by Damir Hadžić

Over the last couple of days spent in the USA, I honestly believe that I have changed as a person, and the way I fit into a team. Being thrown into another way of living is an awesome way of reevaluating my own way of thinking and my actions. The Youth Leadership Program is great in the way that it provides us with a lot of opportunities to experience all the parts of American culture, the good and the bad.

Our first presenter in the program was Luis Ortega. He is an expert in political sciences and civic engagement. His speeches were eye-opening. By analyzing great leaders of the past, he explained the things they all had in common. The way I look at problems in my society and how I would approach to solving them is completely different now. We learned about how to pick a problem, how to inspire others to think the same way and how to actually solve it.

Following the great theoretical knowledge on civic engagement we acquired, it was time to put it to practice. Today, I had the best experience in the USA to date. Me and a group of five other people went to a local grocery store to collect donations for the Ballard Food Bank, which we had previously learned a lot about. I was very skeptical about getting food from random people since there were not a lot of customers but I was wrong. It amazed me how generous the people from Seattle were. Customers were actually making an effort and going out of their way to provide for other people.

At the end of the day, I felt great about myself since I know that my effort will make other people happy. I really hope that the rest of the program provides us with great opportunities like these.


New Experiences - by Ana Puljiz

Hello! My name is Ana Puljiz, I am 16 years old, and I live in Sarajevo. Thanks to this amazing project, the Youth Leadership Program, I am able to write this post in the Emerald City. I have been here for a few days, and I have experienced a lot of new and interesting things. I have met new people and tried new food.

Ana (front center) and friends on their way to Seattle!

Although, this experience has been fun, it isn't a vacation. We attend lectures and do projects to improve our leadership skills, our citizen engagement and to learn how to turn our ideas into reality. One of the ways we learn that is by doing charity work. The biggest value of it is remembering the importance of being active in the community and making change.

I was working along with my friends for the food bank, and we were collecting food for the needy. I tried to be smiling and cheerful all the time. It worked for a lot of people, and most of them were really nice. There was one lady who was annoyed by that, but she was an exception. But there was also a lady who told me that she will help us because she was using the food from the food bank once too, and it was the hardest time of her life.

People like that are the reason we should work for a better future. There will be many people who will stand in your way, but for a good cause, there are many more who will help you out.


The Youth Leadership Program with Bosnia and Herzegovina is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. Learn more about the program here.

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Mental Health Awareness in Nepal

Posted by Ellen Frierson at Oct 30, 2014 04:35 PM |
Kripa, a FIUTS SUSI alum, has made a documentary highlighting mental health issues.

In honor of World Mental Health Day on October 10, Kripa Sigdel from Nepal, an alumna of the FIUTS SUSI program this past summer, created a video on the theme of "Living with Schizophrenia." Read her blog post below on the process of creating the video and what it meant to her.

Digtal Media is one important way by which we can relay information about untalked-about topics to the masses. And being interested in media and also an exchange student of New Media and Journalism, I thought video-making in the form of documentary would be one way I can raise my voice.

Video-making is an interesting yet difficult task. The video-making process is unfamiliar to me. Also, the video-making, translating, and editing is time-consuming. So, since it's my first audio/video documentary, I tried to use the simple tool ‘Movie Maker’ for the editing and combining video/audio files.

The language we use, the information we try to put and the story we want to portray need to be carefully designed in the video. And for this, I have to say, the information and experience I gained in SUSI 2014 helped a lot. The techniques my instructors gave to report and cover the story helped me while conceptualizing this story - Living with Schizophrenia.

Being a psychology student and interested in such topics, I loved making an audio/video documentary to mark Mental Health Day 2014 with the theme "Living with Schizophrenia." And being interested in New Media and Journalism, this video making process is something which I enjoyed. This gave me encouragement to make other videos and also this helped me to learn from my first one while coming up with others in the near future.

You can watch Kripa's video here. Thank you to Kripa and all the other FIUTS SUSI alumni for their continued work to make the world a better place!

The Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, promote a better understanding of the people, institutions, and culture of the United States among foreign students, teachers, and scholars. Study of the U.S. Institutes are short-term academic programs for groups of undergraduate leaders, educators, and scholars from around the world.

The program in Seattle is coordinated by the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS), a local non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Washington that promotes international friendship and cross-cultural understanding in the region. The Seattle Globalist, a daily publication covering the connections between Seattle and the rest of the globe, collaborates with FIUTS to deliver courses on topics in journalism and new media.

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Chili and Applie Pie with the FIUTS Facilitator Family

Posted by Ellen Frierson at Oct 28, 2014 02:43 PM |
Yanran shares memories and pictures from the recent Facilitator Fall Social.

Guest post by FIUTS facilitator & Student Board member Yanran Zheng

On Thursday, October 16th, I went to the FIUTS facilitator fall social event. Now over a week has been past, but I’m still being nostalgic and would like to think back from time to time. I remember how much we expected this cooking party and excited about knowing new friends; I remember everyone’s face when they were so earnest for preparing and cooking foods; I can even tell the smell of the appetizing food! Thanks to this event, I got to know many new friends and had a good chance to catch up with some old friends. Also as a Student Board Leadership Chair, I can see that novice facilitators were nicely involved with our big FIUTS family, and experienced ones got a good opportunity to know each other deeper.

Below are some pictures from the event. They were all my precious memories!

This is our beef chili group! Not so much cut and chops, but we did enjoy mixing all the ingredients together! Sense of fulfillment!


The apple pie group. No one can resist the smell of it. Yummy yummy!

The salad group. Pretty girls and fresh veggies! Thumbs up!


Huge “success” for cornbread lol! A surprising and funny episode during the event—burnt cornbread. But I’d say it still tasted great and special! And one of the facilitators called Anya just liked the burned part so much!


A group photo! I call it “Yummy People”


Lonely Allan—the cleaning group? Lol

Thanks to all our sweet and reliable facilitators!!!  :-)


Learn more about the FIUTS facilitator program here.

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Facilitator Corner: Anya Raj

Posted by FIUTS Community at Oct 09, 2014 04:50 PM |
Anya, a student from the United Kingdom, discusses her personal relationship with FIUTS and the ways she views her role as a facilitator.
Facilitator Corner: Anya Raj

FIUTS Camp: Fall 2014

FIUTS Facilitators are student leaders from all over the world who welcome new international visitors, help to organize events, and lead activities for hundreds of students each quarter. Read on to find out more about the FIUTS facilitator experience from Anya!

Name: Anya Raj
Country: United Kingdom
Major: Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering
Class: Sophomore
FIUTS Facilitator Since: Summer 2014

Anya was born and raised in Manchester, with parents who are South Indian. Anya has family living on every continent except Antarctica. Oh, and her name is Russian. Anya loves everything to do with flight and space, which is why she is studying aeronautics and astronautics. Her international experience in Seattle has led her to minor in International Studies, in addition to her Music minor.

What does it mean to be a FIUTS facilitator?

I first came into contact with FIUTS as a freshman. I had barely arrived in Seattle when I was thrown into FIUTS orientation, which has undoubtedly been one of my favourite experiences at the UW so far. FIUTS has really shaped the path of my first year at UW through the friends I’ve made, cultural experiences I have shared, opportunities I have taken advantage of and the confidence I have gained from pushing myself to meet new people during FIUTS orientation.
I became a facilitator this summer so I could give back to FIUTS what I got out of it, and its been one of the best decisions I’ve made at college so far. Facilitating orientation was in its own way even more fun than participating in it! Being a facilitator has given me a lot more confidence, made me more able to think on my feet and has helped me be able to interact with all types of people. Every challenge I’ve faced such as overcoming a language barrier has been entirely worth it. I’ve learnt an incredible amount about other cultures and people in the past few months alone and cant wait to keep learning more.
What I value most about being a facilitator is knowing how much of an impact the small things you do have on someone else. Striking up a conversation with someone who is nervous about their English skills, asking a group of people to get lunch or showing an interest in a person’s culture and language can give people starting out in a new country an invaluable confidence boost. FIUTS reaches out to a lot of different people, and hearing what FIUTS means to others has made me truly proud to be involved with such a great organization.


Favorite FIUTS anecdote as a facilitator

This summer, I facilitated an orientation event called FIUTS camp, where new international students get to experience an American style camp for a weekend. Camp involves something called ‘Campetition’, where cabins of campers are pitted against each other, and through a series of very silly games a Campetition champion is decided. Two of my (very competitive) housemates were also facilitators at FIUTS camp and we were all on different teams. Campetition quickly turned into a roommate competition, and the extra competitive edge caused each of us to go all out with our team spirit. Our silliness had a positive outcome for the campers, however, as the enthusiasm we showed spilled over into the students in our teams. It was great to see relative strangers gradually become more comfortable with being vocal, talking to each other and really getting into the general daftness of Campetition. Funnily enough, none of our teams ended up winning, but we all had a lot of fun and met some amazing people!!

Tips/comments for peer facilitators

Tip 1: Go to every event that you can make it to. FIUTS offers some amazing opportunities to get out and explore. As a student, it is very easy not to leave the U-district for weeks. Getting involved with FIUTS allows you to do some great things with your time that other people will really appreciate. No two events are the same, the people you meet, places you go and things you do are always different and exciting!
Tip 2: Talk to everybody you can. Taking the initiative to begin conversation is really beneficial for the people you’re talking too who may be nervous about starting conversation themselves. Make the extra effort to talk to the quietest people as it’s always a rewarding experience. You may learn amazing things from the people you reach out to and you could even make some great new friends.
Tip 3: Bring a friend (or 10)! Being a FIUTS facilitator has been an amazing opportunity for me to meet new people from around the world, be they facilitators, staff or students, but it has also allowed me to get to know many of my friends who became FIUTS facilitators with me (including my 8 housemates) a lot better. Being with your friends helps with the initial confidence needed for talking to new people and its always more appealing to sign up for events when you’re first starting out if you know at least one other person. My experience as a facilitator has definitely been made even more amazing by having support from my friends. Around the campfire at FIUTS camp the staff taught us a traditional American campfire song which compares new friends to silver and old friends to gold. As cliché as it may sound, there’s definitely a lot to be said for that.


Learn more about the FIUTS Facilitator program here!

More Facilitator Corner posts:

Minhtu Nguyen

Jianyang (Jane) Zhang

Jialu Sun

Fleur Xuanlin Li

Saleh Alwabel

Clara Jiayao Lu

Le (Juliet) Huang

David Veth

Yili (Jacky) Chen

Jonathan Cheng

Fah Thamsuwan

Charlie Warner

Katherine Li

Nabil Sutjipto

Jeremy Sculley

Ani Antonyan

Jaisang Sun

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Expectations vs. Reality

Louise has been here nearly 2 months already! Join her for a look at her experiences so far.

Our wonderful intern Louise has been in Seattle for nearly two months! Here she shares a brief window into her personal experience, as well as some tips for other International students arriving in Seattle.

Making transitions and big changes in my life has always been something that made me a little bit nervous and anxious. To conquer that anxiety and feel more comfortable I have developed a distinct strategy that I turn to without even thinking about it; I get ridiculously over-prepared.

Before arriving in Seattle, I had figured out my housing situation, reached out to connections in the city to start getting social, had bought gifts for my hosts, started a bucket list, and had spent many hours browsing the web to get to know my new city's geography, history and sights. This level of over preparation has been very helpful to feel confident and competent in Seattle and has helped me with priorities and time management.

However there are some things you just cannot prepare for no matter how hard you try, because sometimes you don't know what things to prepare for, and learning the theory about something won't always translate into being able to apply that information in practice. Based on my academic background in English (with a lot of classes focusing on American culture and society) and my hands on experience with American exchange students in Copenhagen, Denmark, I will say that I have a pretty well rounded knowledge on America and thought I knew what to expect when I got to Seattle.

Louise relaxing by Blanca Lake

I expected and was prepared for things to be pretty different from Northern Europe, but actually my biggest "culture shock" has been to prepare for things being very different, and actually realizing that Seattle is very similar to my home environment. This may be because my previous experience with America has mostly been with the East Coast and I underestimated the regional differences, although, I myself have previously lectured friends and family on how diverse America is. It really is hard to grasp the vast scale of this country until you have spent 6 hours flying across it - you only need 20 min. to pass over Denmark, to put that into perspective.

In reality I feel so much at home here, which is a good thing, but it was not expected. Seattle is sustainability focused, liberal and progressive, the people are a bit reserved just like Danes are said to be (nobody talks to you on the bus or in the street), religion does not seem to be very prominent and the Seattleites are very focused on organic, locally grown, healthy diets just to name a few things I’ve noticed the Pacific Northwest seems to have in common with Denmark.

This has let me to think about the assumptions and preconceived notions we have about a new place before we actually get there. I think we should be aware that most of these ideas are a coping strategy that gives us a sort of security to hold on to as we are heading into unknowing territory. We have to be ready to let go of our preconceived notions and keep an open mind and bring a sense of cultural curiosity when we get to our destination and transition from expectations to reality.

I want to end with some advice that I try to keep reminding myself of even 6 weeks into my stay. The first one is to make healthy decisions for my mind and body; exercise, eat well and remember to rest. I want to experience as much as possible in my short time here, but I also know that I have to have take it easy once in a while. I'm very mindful of my sleep pattern - your sleep cycles are one of the first places that will show when you are out of balance.

Louise with fellow interns Manami (left) and Haruka (right)

The second big advice is that it is okay to be insecure about things! I want to be confident and competent, but I can't always be so and often I reach out to my colleagues from FIUTS, my host family or my new American friends and I will ask them MANY questions. Usually I will start off by saying that I'm really confused or insecure about something and I always get great help. You don't need to be an expert on your new home, bring your curiosity and never be afraid to ask questions. Most people are really friendly and accommodating and will want to help you. Who knows, you might make a friend or two along the way by daring to ask for help. Be brave, keep an open mind and take on Seattle!

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A Story of Community Working Experience

Nishat, SUSI student from Bangladesh, shares her favorite parts of the program, and a few of the things she will take with her.

Earlier this summer students from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka were in Seattle for a new program coordinated by FIUTS, the Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders in Journalism and New Media (SUSI). Each student has written a blog post about the experience. Here's a post by Nishat Parvez from Bangladesh about her time in Seattle:

Before the SUSI program, I did not have any friend ever outside my country Bangladesh, but now I have about 40 friends from different countries. When I took the flight to the USA, I could not even imagine what experiences were waiting for me. SUSI is not only a program about leadership, it’s a program of practical experiences of life in the United States, journalism, civic engagement, community service and so much more.

SUSI- “The Study of the US Institutes for Student Leaders” is a program which is very prestigious in South Asian countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and India. The program is funded by US State Department. The main focus of the program is "New Media and Journalism."

The United States of America rules the world, so it is important to know about their media and Journalism. After 3 weeks of the program, I know a lot about the laws of this country; mostly 1st amendment, freedom of press, big media, new media and small media laws. New forms of media have brought a great change in the old media of US like QUOW Radio, Seattle times, and even local papers like the Eatonville Dispatch. One example I found rather astonishing was the ‘Puget Sound Off’ blog, which is regularly monitored to provide police with information used to improve Seattle’s security.

I came to know about the diversity of US society with interviews with different types of people in the city. I also learned this through my South Asian mates, FIUTS Staff and other SUSI Ambassadors from different parts of the world.

I learned how to communicate with people from different countries. From my childhood I have easily been able to become friends with any people with my communication skills. But in the US, I found that when I went to speak, people do not always catch my language, often because of the pronunciation differences. I was astonished at this. In my country, I have to use my mother tongue for studying. So I have some problems with this language. But day by day, I have come to realize I can speak about any subject using English. It's improving!


Nishat (red backpack) & other SUSIs outside of District Market

All the participants are living in the University of Washington campus. So I know the campus life. I also lived in my campus dormitory, but there boys and girls have to live in separate building. I feel like a UW student as I have to take my food from the Local Point (a cafeteria on campus) and shop at the District Market (a campus grocery store) with a “Huskycard.”

We had to do community services in a food bank, and at a community farm. We also worked in a street newspaper called Real Change. This was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. The newspaper has changed the life of their homeless workers. When two workers told about their lives living on the street,  and about their new lives, I could not control my emotions.

I can’t possibly capture everything about my experience in just a single story, but I want to share my experience about the food bank. I think all my SUSI friends were writing something about this. The concept of food bank is very new for me.


SUSI Participants at Marra Farm (Photo by Nishat Parvez)

We have some community based food delivering or some food truck program, but it is very uncommon back home. The foods at the food bank in Seattle, mostly vegetables and fruits, come there from the community farms, and we also visited such a farm. Its name was Marra Farm. So I have two experience based on food and agriculture, one is food bank and another is community farming. There are many volunteers in those places. We have just youth volunteers back home, but there are so many elderly volunteers here. I also found a lady who seemed a lot like my grandma. I told her that she seemed like my grandma, and she praised me a lot. Tom, one of the FIUTS staff, took us to the food bank and helped us a lot. We made some sandwiches there. Then we took all the things down from the truck and  loaded them inside the food bank . It was a whole bunch of team work. You have to make everything done with teamwork. You can help each member in a team to get all your work done. I learned this from the food bank service. Helping others is often necessary to complete your own job. It's an amazing skill of leadership.

There was another cross cultural experience in the food bank. I know some Spanish, so I spoke with the Spanish-speaking people. There are so many people who come to the food bank. Most of them are not native English speakers, and many can’t understand English well. We had to use gestures with our hands or show them numbers on our fingers to tell them the quantity of items they could take. This is one of the very old tricks, but it enhanced my concrete skills of leadership. Through this food bank experience I learned about civic engagement and community service.

Every group work project and every class has enhanced concrete skills in critical thinking and communications. With these projects and classes we learned about the media’s influence on social and traditional levels.

Oh I forgot to give thanks the SUSI ambassadors, and applicants. Thanks to all of you guys. You just make my life 'happily ever after'. I again opened my twitter account after come to Seattle. It helps me keep up with the new media's challenge to flourish.

By the way, I want to use all my leadership skills, communication phenomena and new media experiences back home. I learned the theme "don’t go back when challenges come, try to face them." Without facing the obstacles in your path, you will never get to your desired destination.


The Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, promote a better understanding of the people, institutions, and culture of the United States among foreign students, teachers, and scholars. Study of the U.S. Institutes are short-term academic programs for groups of undergraduate leaders, educators, and scholars from around the world.

The program in Seattle is coordinated by the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS), a local non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Washington that promotes international friendship and cross-cultural understanding in the region. The Seattle Globalist, a daily publication covering the connections between Seattle and the rest of the globe, is collaborating with FIUTS to deliver courses on topics in journalism and new media.

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Welcome Louise

Posted by FIUTS Community at Aug 20, 2014 10:30 AM |
Meet newest member of our staff, Louise Iuel! Louise is visiting for 3-months before beginning her MA. in Intercultural Studies & Communication next August in Denmark. Here is a brief introduction from Louise:

Louise Iuel joined FIUTS this month as our newest intern, and we're so glad to welcome her to Seattle, and our office! Here's Louise, introducing herself to the FIUTS community:

Name: Louise Iuel

Hometown: Copenhagen, Denmark

Year:  I’m not in school right now. I’m doing a short 3-month independent training program with FIUTS as a part of a couple of gap years that I have spent getting some professional experience.

What’s Next: I will start my MA. in intercultural studies & communication next August in Denmark.

I’m a trainee from Denmark, who has come to FIUTS to expand my knowledge on intercultural communication and educational programing, while living a yearlong dream of staying in the US for an extended period of time. I got my BA in English & Communication in 2012 and have spent the last couple of years working for DIS – “Danish Institute for Study Abroad”, a non-profit study abroad institution based in Copenhagen, who caters to students from American Colleges. This experience has only made me more passionate about cultural exchange and increased my wish to come visit some of the American friends that I have made over the years.

I am very fortunate to get to live and breathe more cultural exchange this fall, as I am experiencing making a cultural transition firsthand. With FIUTS I will primarily be working on planning and executing the International Student Orientation. I am very excited to get to meet many different people from different cultures at FIUTS events and hear about their cultural exchange experience and share mine.

When I won’t be working I will hang out with my host family and explore the many different things Seattle has to offer; cuisine, beverages, nightlife, local spots & neighborhoods, music, green areas & nature are some of my key interests. Every day is a new adventure, but from time to time I am also very content curling up in a small nook with a book and a cup of coffee. Luckily for me Seattle has excellent coffee and it is much cheaper than I am used to. I think that I will be quite happy here for the next couple of months.

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Interning with FIUTS

Posted by FIUTS Community at Aug 15, 2014 10:45 AM |
Over the past six-weeks Momoko Iwata (originally from Japan) has volunteered as an intern here at FIUTS, providing assistance to the staff on numerous projects and events. Today she has written a few words about her experience with her main responsibility, overseeing FIUTS Fridays.

Over the past six-weeks Momoko Iwata (originally from Japan) has volunteered as an intern here at FIUTS, providing assistance to the staff on numerous projects and events. Today she has written a few words about her experience overseeing FIUTS Fridays.

I have led six FIUTS Fridays so far, and enjoyed every single one! What is wonderful about FIUTS Friday is that it gives us the opportunity to meet new people and interact with them. Usually, we take some time to introduce ourselves and to do some ice breakers before we leave the Burke Museum Café, which is the meet up location. This allows us enjoy the event together more.

It is very hard to choose the favorite FIUTS Friday from this summer, but I especially liked our visit to the Bite of Seattle. I had a great time eating delicious food seeing the Space Needle with the participants. Seafair Summer Fourth at Gas Works Park was very special, too. It was my first FIUTS Friday, and other facilitators gave me many tips!

Momoko (Front Row, White Shirt) and a group of FIUTS participants and the Bite of Seattle FIUTS Friday

The challenge of leading FIUTS Friday is to take many participants to the venue using public transportation. However, this is the important feature of FIUTS Friday and makes it different than other events. I am sure that everyone gets to know each other more through this process. We can chat even while we are waiting for the bus!

I am grateful for this opportunity, and very excited for the upcoming FIUTS Fridays. It is very casual and no sign up is necessary. So please join us for the rest of the events! :)


If you are interested in an internship with FIUTS, please take a moment to look at our employment page for more information.

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Coping with Pre-Departure Fears

Posted by FIUTS Community at Aug 14, 2014 10:30 AM |
Join Ping-Ping Narenpitak, an incoming graduate student in the department of Atmospheric Sciences from Bangkok, examines her apprehensions preparing to depart for Seattle and the University of Washington.

Guest post by Pornampai (Ping-Ping) Narenpitak, 1st-year Atmospheric Sciences graduate student from Bangkok.

There is only a month left until I move to Seattle. This will be my fifth year living abroad. I have lived in Connecticut for one year and spent another three years in Wisconsin for undergraduate school. Despite that, I still feel nervous thinking about this life transition. I am nervous to be in a big city where I rarely know anyone and I am slightly afraid to face the unknowns. However, as I think about my past experiences, moving to a new place is actually not as bad. It can be exciting and fun if it is well prepared.

So how do I prepare for moving?

One thing I am nervous about is surviving in a big city. Direction is one of my weaknesses and I’ve always got lost even in a small city I lived in. Knowing that, I have spent quite a few times studying the map of Seattle. I used Google map to view the streets and familiarize myself with the campus area as well as the surrounding neighborhood. I plan to get a paper map of the city once I arrive Seattle as well. To get around with public transportation, I am going to download a bus-tracking application and use it on my smartphone. Doing these makes me feel more confident in getting around and exploring the city.

Another challenge I usually faced is homesickness. I felt homesick every time I left home and went back to school. However, good news is that the level of my homesickness has decreased over the years as I made more friends. I found out that staying in my own little room and thinking about home will only make things worse. So yes… making friends is the way to go! As much as I want to keep in touch with family and friends back home, having good friends in America is highly important to me because they can make a foreign place feel like home. But before reaching that goal, we have to step out of our comfort zones and be willing to know other people first. We have to be ready to be stretched and open-minded for different cultures.

Photo of the Seattle skyline taken by Ping-Ping on a visit in March

How about packing?

After dealing with these fears that may hinder me from wanting to move to Seattle, it’s time for packing. I threw everything into my suitcases and then realized they became overweight! I would have to unpack my stuff and re-pack them. Sigh.

To prevent that, I made a list of what to bring and what not to. Here are examples of what I think is important or useful to have in-hands once I arrive America. (By the way, anything too heavy or can be found easily in Seattle will be crossed out from my to-bring list, just to not overpack. The list may also vary from to person.)

(1) Passport, I-20 or DS-2019, and other important traveling documents. I would scan them and ask my parents to keep the electronic copies at home.

(2) Umbrella or rain jacket. Seattle is known as a raining city. Although it’s more sunny than rainy in the summer, I would still bring one just in case.

(3) Medicine if needed.

(4) Clothes—bring enough for early autumn.

(5) Souvenirs—There will be many activities and opportunities to be involved with the local. Some of those are activities provided by FIUTS. It is always nice to prepare something for people who kindly help us adjust to a new place. One way to show our appreciation is giving them souvenirs from our home countries.

Finally, it’s time to pack! I would also keep some clothes at the top of my luggage or in a separate bag so I can take them out easily during the first week of orientation.

In short

Moving to a different country is a big life transition. Dealing with fears that may arise from this is not easy, but it is a good way to grow. It may sound difficult at first, but the feeling after overcoming the challenges is so good. Therefore, instead of thinking about my fears, I think about the positive sides and what I look forward to in Seattle. I try to plan ahead of time so I will be less nervous. When the time comes, I can be excited and ready for a new chapter of life!

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Facilitator Corner: Minhtu Nguyen

Read about the experiences of one of our amazing volunteer student leaders!
Facilitator Corner: Minhtu Nguyen

Mihntu, left, with two other FIUTS facilitators

FIUTS Facilitators are student leaders from all over the world who welcome new international visitors, help to organize events, and lead activities for hundreds of students each quarter. Read on to find out more about the FIUTS facilitator experience from Minhtu!

Name: Minhtu Nguyen
Country: Vietnam           
Major: Biology
Class: Senior
FIUTS Facilitator Since: 2013

Three words that define my UW college life: pre-med, dance, and FIUTS.

I am a transfer pre-med student majoring in biology. Each division in biology fascinates me but I am most passionate in human physiology. Sometimes while eating a Chipotle bowl, the thought of how each nutrient in the bowl is being digested, absorbed, used, and stored in my body delights me. Yeah! Some of my friends call me a nerd.

Beside my focus on biology, I am also minoring in dance. I believe that dancing is a very effective non-verbal communication and each dance opens you to a whole new culture. I enjoy doing social and cultural dances such as African dance, tango, salsa, historic European dances, bomba, etc. I am the vice president of the UW Tango club. My goal is to introduce many of my friends to dancing because it is truly amazing!

I started to join FIUTS as a booth planning committee member for CulturalFest 2013 during my first quarter at UW and it was a very rewarding experience. I gradually learn more about FIUTS mission and take on more challenges as a facilitator and student board member. Through FIUTS, I have met so many good friends from all over the world. I believe that FIUTS have been providing me with invaluable multicultural experience for my future career as a physician.

FIUTS graduation ceremony (2013)

What does it mean to be a FIUTS facilitator?

Transition between two cultures might be very difficult. Every person has his or her own strategy to overcome this hard time. As a pretty shy and quite girl, I chose to spent most of the time during the first two year in the US being in the library and sticking my nose on books with hope that I can improve my English as fast as possible and thrive in new education environment. Now I realize that it wasn’t a smart choice. My college experience completely changed after I took the initiation to take on a leadership position at the FIUTS CulturalFest. I received lots of help from the staff and peers. I have grown so much since then.

For me, being a FIUTS facilitator and student board member is a chance to improve myself and also to give back to the community. I want to help new international students to adapt quickly to new environment by introducing them to new resources, activities, places, friends, and communities because UW and Seattle have so many exciting things to offer. I always share my story to encourage new students to be more active and engaging because extracurricular activities make a huge difference in college life experience.

Wallace Falls hike

Favorite FIUTS anecdote as a facilitator:

One of my favorite FIUTS events as a facilitator is the Global Getaway trip to Vancouver and Victoria, Canada during spring break. It was my first time facilitating an off campus event. I was stressed out before the trip thinking of how to organize activities for a week and make sure that participants have good time. Adding on top of those stresses was first time driving a U-car mini van safely to take students to visit another country. With great help from my peer facilitator, Jeremy, I was able to feel more confident and successfully led the trip. Fourteen of us enjoyed sharing delicious food, biking around Stanley park, hiking, swimming, visiting museum, playing pools, singing karaoke, dancing. etc. We had a really good time in Canada.

Discovering downtown Vancouver, Canada

Tips/comments for peer facilitators

Keep seeking for more challenges. Taking on different leadership positions such as planning committee or student board. The more challenge we have, the more rewarding we feel at the end, and the more personal growth we attain.

Be flexible. Things don’t always go as planned.

Never hesitate to ask for help from the staff and other facilitators. They are very good resources.

Take best advantage of facilitator socializing events. These events are the best time for us to learn more from each other, broaden our networking, and make lifelong friendship.


Learn more about the FIUTS Facilitator program here!

More Facilitator Corner posts:

Jianyang (Jane) Zhang

Jialu Sun

Fleur Xuanlin Li

Saleh Alwabel

Clara Jiayao Lu

Le (Juliet) Huang

David Veth

Yili (Jacky) Chen

Jonathan Cheng

Fah Thamsuwan

Charlie Warner

Katherine Li

Nabil Sutjipto

Jeremy Sculley

Ani Antonyan

Jaisang Sun

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