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Facilitator Corner: Herish Patel

FIUTS Facilitators are student leaders from all over the world who welcome new international visitors, help organize events, and lead activities for hundreds of students each quarter. Read on to find out more about the FIUTS facilitator experience from Herish Patel, and why he calls FIUTS a "family away from family!"

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

Name: Herish Patel
Country: India
Major: MS in Construction Management
Class: 2017
FIUTS Facilitator Since: 2015

Brief Introduction
Hello everyone, my name is Herish Patel. I am an international student from India, currently enrolled into a Masters program at UW. I completed my undergraduate studies in 2013, majoring in Engineering. Eager to gain success with profound knowledge, I moved out of my home in 2009, and then out of my country in 2015. I believe that when you reach a comfort zone in life, you must break through that zone in order to push yourself forward and achieve your goals. I have experienced two big transitions in my life, which have enlightened me and provided me with substantial life learnings. The 1st experience was when I left my town at the age of 18 and the 2nd one when I came to the U.S.A. The 1st transition showed me the importance of extra-curricular development and the 2nd transition showed me my existence in this world. The 1st transition forced me to change the way I perceive myself and helped me learn developing skills. With the new gained skills, I ended up becoming the head in a Student Organization. The 2nd transition changed the way I see the world, it forced me to broaden my perspectives, and encouraged me to go beyond the limits I had set for myself. This led me to become a happy facilitator for FIUTS.

What does it mean to be a FIUTS facilitator?
Being a FIUTS facilitator means breaking your psychological boundaries of culture and moving towards a world where everyone understand and flourishes the sense of culture under the shelter of humanity.  Meeting new people, learning and respecting other cultures, enlightening your self-world with facts from the real world, taking responsibility of people who are outside of your comfort zone (own culture), developing connections and contributing to make the world a place without boundaries of cultures, cities & countries.

Why are you a facilitator?

The reason behind becoming a facilitator was to meet new people, learn their cultures and make lifelong connections in this new environment. In parallel to learning the leadership aspects, managing people and still finding ways of happiness makes it more fascinating. The FIUTS facilitator program design gives volunteers freedom to leverage events, with some given activities based on participants’ wishes. This helps them break the pattern and develop decision making skills. Being a facilitator, one will also get the chance to see different places around Seattle, something that one might not want to do alone. As a FIUTS facilitator, you will have the chance to feel like a tourist every time you visit a place with new people around you.

Favorite FIUTS anecdote as a facilitator
I prefer to do driving events, hiking & other outdoor activities out of all the great options offered. My first American camping experience with FIUTS, in which I facilitated with Kevin and Kamal, was the most memorable trip ever. The snowy hidden lake hike of approx. 8 miles round trip on next day was the most energy consuming, but also the most stunning. When participants are wearing running shoes and still want to hike in the snow, it will definitely put a little extra pressure on your shoulders. The SUSI 2016 summer program was also amazing. Through this program, a lot of strong connections were made that during the last day everyone left with watery eyes.

Tips/comments for peer facilitators
Eagerness to learn, accountability to the surroundings, and stepping up when everyone else is hesitating – build these in your everyday life and use them all the time. If you will wait for other facilitators to act than you will never be able to show and grow yourself. That being said, FIUTS is a place where you should forget corporate professionalism and work as a family member. Make preferences for your selection of events, that’s fine, but also make sure to step up when FIUTS needs you because no one will force you to experience new things.

FIUTS is a Family Away from Family.

Check out our past Facilitator Corners:

Cece ZhangNail Hassairi, Sophia Chakalo, Bader Alfarhan, Peirce KirkhamAlissa Mustre, Ang Li,Wedward Wei, Terry Jung, Hassan Almuzaini, Isabella Ning, Lucy Deng, Nhung Le, Abigail Lim, Ferris Maghi, Kevin Sander, Joey Liao, Anya Raj, 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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Photo Journey: Thanksgiving Dinner 2016

Each November, FIUTS international students get the chance to share Thanksgiving Dinner with our hosts in the Seattle area. We're thrilled to see so many smiling faces as people from around the world gathered to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. Enjoy these photos!

"I cannot express how much I appreciate FIUTS for providing this chance to let international students connect with local community and thank you for your great help. That night was definitely the best night I've spent in Seattle so far, and I feel so lucky to be a member of this great event." - Meng, FIUTS student

Each November, FIUTS international students get the chance to share Thanksgiving Dinner with our hosts in the Seattle area. For many students, the opportunity to eat turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie with an American family or group of friends is a new and exciting cultural experience. And for hosts, inviting international students to join them for Thanksgiving brings unique perspectives to this fall tradition.

We're thrilled to see so many smiling faces as people from around the world enjoyed a meal together. Enjoy the photo journey through our global Thursday evening!

Four of our students go to spend Thanksgiving Dinner with a talented cook, Betsy, her husband Jason, and their families and friends.

Getting ready to carve up the turkey at the Knowltons'!

Jennifer and her family had a good time celebrating the tradition with FIUTS students!

Timber and Leah got to spend Thanksgiving with our dedicated community member, Linda!

Students from UW Tacoma spent Thanksgiving in Auburn with Anthony and his family!

Getting ready to eat!

FIUTS students Kexuan and Yuan had a chance to take the ferry and spend Thanksgiving with Kenn and his friends at a farm in Belfair! They plan to meet up again and do more tours of Seattle.

Graduate students Navjot and Kamatchi with their Thanksgiving hosts and their family and friends!

Jennifer and her family posing with their three FIUTS students at Thanksgiving!

UW students Jingyi and Yuzhu got to spend an amazing Thanksgiving Dinner with our host Eleanor!

We're so thankful for the community members who welcome students to their tables, and to students for participating in a unique cultural exchange experience!

To learn more about FIUTS hosting and friendship programs, visit www.fiuts.org/homestay.

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Staying in town for the Holidays? Get off campus with Zipcar!

Check out a holiday message from one of our sponsors, Zipcar!

A message from our sponsor, Zipcar:

No major travel plans for Thanksgiving or winter break? Zipcar has you covered! Book your Zipcars now before all the U District cars are all gobbled up.

Here's some awesome ways to get off campus this holiday season without having to travel far:

1. Shopping! From waiting in lines to scoring the perfect gifts, piling several friends in a Zipcar and hunting for deals is all part of the Black Friday experience. Heck, you can even zip one-way to Northgate or into downtown to avoid the insane mall parking lots.

2. Don't know how to make a turkey? Neither do we. Leave the cooking to the pros and zip to one of several restaurants in Seattle that are open on Thanksgiving. A Zipcar is the perfect way to check out an eatery in an area you don't go to often.

3. Time for a road trip- all Zipcars have daily rates so you can zip overnight and explore. The school break is a great excuse to check out the Snoqualmie Waterfalls, a WA State Park, or finally make it down to Portland. Gas, insurance, and 180 miles/day are included!

Not yet a Zipcar member? JOIN TODAY at zipcar.com/upass and use coupon code "FIUTS16" for $10 FREE driving credit. International licenses are always welcomed. See you on the road!”

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FIUTS Panel with UW Department of Political Science

On November 2, FIUTS hosted a panel with three professors from the Department of Political Science on "Making Sense of the U.S. Election."

On November 2, FIUTS hosted a panel with three professors from the Department of Political Science on "Making Sense of the U.S. Election." An article about the event is reprinted below, and you can read the original here. Thank you to all who participated.

FIUTS (The Foundation for International Understanding Through Students), a nonprofit organization affiliated with the University of Washington, sponsored a faculty panel on November 2nd to explain some of the big issues surrounding the election. FIUTS produces “ongoing events and activities throughout the quarter that give students opportunities to get to know others from around the world,” explained Ellen Frierson, the Manager of Education Programs at FIUTS. Over the past year the election has become a topic of discussion among FIUTS students and many have expressed interest in knowing more about the United States political process. Therefore, FIUTS coordinated a faculty panel and invited Political Science Professors Mark Smith, Rebecca Thorpe, and John Wilkerson to participate and to provide their insights on the election.

After giving a quick overview of the three branches of government, their importance in relation to the election cycle, and the presidential electoral system to the audience of mostly international students, the panelists went on to answer questions about the divisiveness and negativity of this election. Professor Thorpe stated that negativity during a campaign is not a new thing, however it is unique in the sense that “the political parties are more polarized than they have been at any time since right before the Civil War.” She also said that anti-political politicians, such as the Tea Party, have contributed in part to what is now a more divisive climate.

Media has also played a role in the negativity and polarization of this election. Although it may not have caused it directly, it at least exacerbates these political divisions. All three panelists commented that voters tend to self-select their media outlets. Strong Republicans may choose to receive their news from more conservative news sources just as strong Democrats or progressives may seek to get their news from more liberal news sources. Therefore, they are receiving information that is very one-sided and may demonize the other side. Professor Wilkerson added that the media understands that people love controversy. Consequently, they tend to focus on the controversial things the candidates have said and done because those stories will receive more hits than news reports on policy differences between candidates.

Identity politics have taken a more prominent role in our national dialogue since Barack Obama became president, and political parties are more defined and divided by these issues. Professor Smith pointed out that Donald Trump’s “white, nationalist” rhetoric has “really elevated these identity questions and brought them to the surface.” Professor Wilkerson added, “Donald Trump came in and validated the viewpoints of a lot of people who felt like it wasn’t ok to express their political views…So it’s not like he has caused this, rather what he’s done is he has legitimated and made it ok to be vocal about those positions.”

Following the discussion, Professors Smith, Thorpe, and Wilkerson took questions from the audience. They will continue discussing this topic on November 16th, at the Department of Political Science’s quarterly faculty panel. Joined by Professor Sophia Wallace, they will analyze election results and where we will go from here. For more information about the event, please visit our events page.

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FIUTS Statement on the U.S. Election

FIUTS stands for respect between people, for the power of dialogue, for celebration of cultural diversity. FIUTS stands for peace.

 

FIUTS was founded in the years after WWII, as the world was emerging from dark times, and we have witnessed countless acts of hate and fear over the past 68 years. No matter what, FIUTS has remained true to our values of friendship, courage, understanding, and compassion.

In our community, it is clear that there are a lot of questions and concerns about what the U.S. election and the rhetoric surrounding it means for the future.

The outcome of the election might not be the one many were hoping for. It might be difficult to understand how we will move forward in the face of values so different from our own. But that is what we will do.

FIUTS stands for respect between people, for the power of dialogue, for celebration of cultural diversity. FIUTS stands for peace. And that does not change. It is more important than ever.

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Welcome, Marilyn and Sunny!

FIUTS is very lucky to welcome two more new friendly faces in the office! Help us welcome Marilyn and Sunny to our staff this fall. Say hi to them when you see them at the front desk. Here they are, introducing themselves to the FIUTS community!

FIUTS is very lucky to welcome two more new friendly faces in the office! Help us welcome Marilyn and Sunny to our staff this fall. Say hi to them when you see them at the front desk. Here they are, introducing themselves to the FIUTS community:

Name: Marilyn Cole

Hometown: Eugene, Oregon

Year: Graduate Student

Major: International Studies (REECAS Program)

About me: Hello, my name is Marilyn! I am a first year in the Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies master’s program. I enjoy learning about international education and the culture of international student exchange. Some fun facts about me: I am a Russian heritage speaker, I love watching TV shows, trying new foods, and I have a passion for traveling and meeting new people. I am extremely excited to join the FIUTS team! Feel free to stop by the FIUTS office to come say hi!

 

Name: Sunny Cai

Hometown: Shandong, China

Year: Sophomore

Major: Business (intended)

About me: Hi everyone! It's great to be in a part of FIUTS family. As a people person, I get a lot of pleasure from working with groups and helping to strengthen the bonds of the people I work with in order for everyone to reach their goals. In my spare time, I love traveling, listening to hip hop music and doing exercise. I'm currently on UW boxing team and that's my favorite sport so far. I love meeting new friends and I want to get to know more of you!

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My FIUTS Homestay Experience

Each fall, FIUTS volunteer hosts welcome more than a hundred new University of Washington students into their homes for the first 7-10 days they spend in the Puget Sound. Our hosts help students settle into their new home city, show them the local flavor, and offer them a family away from their country! Here is Zameer Mohammad, a UW student, recounting the wonderful days he spent with his hosts.

Each fall, FIUTS volunteer hosts welcome more than a hundred new University of Washington students into their homes for the first 7-10 days they spend in the Puget Sound. Our hosts help students settle into their new home city, show them the local flavor, and offer them a family away from their country! Here is Zameer Mohammad, a UW student, recounting the wonderful days he spent with his hosts:

From the very first day I met Thomas and Susan Colligan at Sea-Tac International Airport, they have been nothing but extremely nice to me. Right after getting into the car, they talked about themselves and asked about me and my family. They had a lot of questions about my culture and traditions and I had a lot about theirs. I’m not used to people who were complete strangers until that moment have engaging conversations as if they knew each other from a very long time. Tom took me out to Magnuson Park. We took out his boat and fished in Lake Washington—this was on the very first day of my arrival in the city! While most of my friends were busy with setting up their new accommodations, I was already exploring Seattle! Tom and Susan took me out to grocery stores, restaurants and yacht clubs. Tom showed me around downtown and the best places to see there. On the weekend, they took me to Sequim. They even asked me to bring along a friend. We visited a shooting range and got to try skeet shooting. We even took a picture with an Olympic Gold Medallist Shooter, Matt Dryke. It was, as Tom and Susan promised, a classic American experience.

The Colligans are humble, down to earth, caring and loving. They were very considerate of my dietary restrictions due to my religious belief. Both of them were very kind and helpful to me with the daily life here. They were more than happy to answer my unending questions regarding the number plating of the vehicles, American football and politics, the national parks and everything else. They gave me their ORCA card so that I can travel around the city. They also gave me the key to their house, so that I can let myself in when they were at work. This gesture surprised me, because not many people would trust a person they’ve just met enough to give the key to their house. These are the qualities which make them such a lovely family.

I believe the best way to know about a country is through its local people. And the Colligans gave me a very good first impression of the US and its People. What I will cherish most about the ten days I stayed with them will be the long evening talks after dinner about our cultures, how different and yet how similar they are, while enjoying a bowl of Susan’s favourite ice cream. Im glad that I chose the homestay program. Even after moving to my new place, they still invite me for dinners and trips. They treat me like one of their own kids. Its like I have a family here, 8000 miles away from home. Im grateful to FIUTS for this wonderful opportunity, and would recommend every incoming international student to the UW to try the homestay program.

Apply to be a host today and sign up to host UW international students for Thanksgiving Dinner (no homestay required)!

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Facilitator Corner: Xiruo (Cece) Zhang

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

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

Name: Xiruo (Cece) Zhang
Country: China
Major: Physics
Class: 2017
FIUTS Facilitator Since: 2014

Brief Introduction
Spicy food addict, life-long member of the global cat lover club, female otaku gamer with never ending curiousness towards life.

What does it mean to be a FIUTS facilitator?
I joined FIUTS when I was a sophomore, and by that time, I thought it’s like a volunteering work and that’s all. However, after spending two years facilitating and participating in events, I started to realize that this is not as easy as I thought. First, yes, being a facilitator is like being a volunteer, you take your time to help other students to adapt their new life here. A lot of the times facilitators are international students who know nothing about Seattle, and you need to push yourself to ask around. Why there’s an underground city in downtown Seattle? Where is the Fremont troll? What’s the history of the Seattle Seahawks team? You will probably never know any of these if you don’t give yourself the chance to learn. So it’s not just giving out your time, but also gaining back, improving yourself as a person. Second, leadership. Every time after facilitating an event, you are asked to fill up a feedback form. It’s the best way to look back what you have done throughout the event. Have you helped students to know each other? Have you encountered any problems? What were the solutions you used? There might be some embarrassing moments during the first couple times of facilitating, but don’t worry, we all been though those. The most important thing is you practice yourself as a leader, and that matters. As time pass by, you will notice that you are getting more comfortable speaking in front of people, and even if something unexpected happens, you won’t be as nervous as you used to. That’s what we want you to be at FIUTS.

Facilitators at FIUTS Camp during the New Student Orientation

What's your favorite FIUTS anecdote as a facilitator?
Every moment in the New Student Orientation! I’ve been as a facilitator for a while, but this year is the first time I put myself into this huge event from the first day till the end. It was busy, we had a 2-day long folding party to put together all the info sheets that are useful for 1,500+ students. It was crazy, you get to know so many students, who might just get off the plane from the other side of the planet. It was amazing, watching all those young adults traveled all the way to get to meet each other, from strangers to best friends. It was fantastic, there were tons of fun events that you can take part in, camp, football games, scavenger hunts... All these reminded me the first day I arrived at the campus, excited, upset, curious… you have to say time past so fast and now I’m no longer a freshman. Anyways, if you want to practice leadership, have lots fun, get to know lots people, you should definitely sign up for this event – I promise you won’t regret the decision.

What tips or comments do you have for peer facilitators?

    1. Get prepared for whatever event you are facilitating. This is important. A lot of the times students who come to your event are new, international students, they don’t know as much as you do, and they want to know more than just the event itself. Make sure you check the emails that FIUTS’ staff sent to you after you register, they have some basic information that you should know. Except for that, Google the place you are going to, or the event you are joining, or some random places around that may help you just in case. All you do is not just for helping the students, it’s also a way to improve yourself. I’ve been in Seattle for almost 4 years and there are a tons of fun places that I will never get a chance to know if it’s not because of FIUTS.

    2. Take advantages of the 15 minutes’ facilitators’ time before the start of the event. You should know each and every fellow facilitator in the group, get to know who they are, what they study, oh, and their phone numbers – I’m not kidding, you will need those. A lot of the times, especially if you are facilitating a huge event with too many students show up, you will need to separate students into small groups and take them to the place in several buses. Phone numbers are the only way to get contact with the rest of the facilitators and keep them updated. Plus, maybe someday if you want to hold a bubble tea party, you can invite them!

    3. Be passionate! Don’t be afraid to meet new people. Sign up for the events! Drop by the office as long as you have time! And most important, enjoy your life <3

 

Check out our past Facilitator Corners:

Nail Hassairi, Sophia Chakalo, Bader Alfarhan, Peirce Kirkham, Alissa Mustre, Ang Li, Wedward Wei, Terry Jung, Hassan Almuzaini, Isabella Ning, Lucy Deng, Nhung Le, Abigail Lim, Ferris Maghi, Kevin Sander, Joey Liao, Anya Raj, 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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Welcome, Cecilia and Ian

FIUTS is very lucky to have two new friendly faces in the office! Help us welcome Cecilia and Ian to our family this fall. Say hi to them when you see them at the front desk!

FIUTS is very lucky to have two new friendly faces in the office! Help us welcome Cecilia and Ian to our intern staff this fall. Say hi to them when you see them at the front desk. Here they are, introducing themselves to the FIUTS community:

Name: Zhengyun Zhong (Cecilia)

Hometown: Guangzhou, China

Year: Graduate Student

Major: International Studies (China Studies)

About me: Hi, this is Cecilia! Very happy to join the FIUTS family in this quarter. I like working with people from different places and attending various events with students. I love my international studies program and like to learn about any international related issues. As a Cantonese, I am always ready to share the Cantonese culture and good food. See you around at HUB (FIUTS office) and IMA (always try to do sports, big fan of table tennis)!

 

 

 

Name: Ian Yu

Hometown: Harbin, China

Year: Freshman

Major: Pre-major

About me: Hi everyone! I am a freshman at the University of Washington. I am working on getting into the Foster School of Business. My intended major is marketing!  In my free time, I like surfing, watching movies and hanging out with my friends. I decided to join FIUTS because I am fascinated by different cultures and want to meet new people! I am thrilled to work with FIUTS and promote international peace.

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Reflections on a SUSI Experience

Muaadh Nalir, from Sri Lanka, shares his memories from his summer with FIUTS during the SUSI program.

Guest post written by Muaadh Nalir, FIUTS SUSI participant, Summer 2016

It has been 2 months since I came back to my home country, Sri Lanka, but I still feel as if I have just landed back to my homeland. The cultural shocks I still get are unbelievably crazy, because I personally used to do all those things before my visit there.

Hi, my name is Muaadh, and this is my very brief view of what I think of the SUSI program. Of course with word limitations I won’t be able to jot down everything, but I will mention a few of the best moments and events which, I, felt are special.

The SUSI program was scheduled to be held in summer, and by summer a normal individual will think that the weather is going to be sunny and warm, but upon landing in Seattle I got to know it was cold even during the summer. Never the less, I was informed to bring clothes that would keep me warm. The SUSI program I attended was “Student Leaders in Journalism and New Media” hosted by FIUTS at the University of Washington.

Let me first thank the State Department for the opportunity and FIUTS for brilliantly hosting us and making sure we had everything that was needed throughout the program.

One of the major highlights of the exchange was meeting our ambassadors who are currently UW students, and have been in Seattle for over a period of one year. There were 20 ambassadors, all from different countries and background, which enhanced the cultural experience to a different level. For the 4 weeks in Seattle, the ambassador helped us through various ways, especially during our final write up for the Seattle globalist.

Meeting the ambassadors for the first time

My most favorite locations in Seattle are Gas Works Park, Golden Garden, a specific place on Lake Union and Discovery Park. Although I loved the tourist attractions or destination in Seattle like Pike’s Market, Space Needle and Mt. Rainer to name a few, the places I mentioned before would be my favorite. Seattle has given me many memories, let it be the late night walks with the other participants, seeing and touching snow for the first time (and of course having a snowball fight), watching a baseball match for the first time, late night shawarma and gyro joint and exploring different parts of Seattle, each having their own little culture. It was simply amazing that words can’t really express how much these little things meant to a guy like me.

Who wouldn't take a selfie ? With Gena Fazel (Location: Gasworks Park)

A group selfie before we hiked Mount Rainier

Apart from all this experience, some experience just gave me a reminder on how grateful I am to lead a life I have right now, and how some people struggle every day to make a good living. Sometimes we feel that volunteering and field trips can be boring, but most of the valuable life experiences were gained from them. Listening to stories of people and their life experiences, what they have done to make their and others lives better, is something that would always keep reminding me of life, and how good it is for me. There are always things that we can adapt in our lives or country, and one of the things I would love to start in my country is the food drive; collection of food and distributing it the needful. It’s quite surprising to know that every individual want to help, but doesn’t have a way to do it.

We just finished our site visit at the Seattle Times

My understanding or I would rather say misunderstanding about the homeless people and their situation was cleared off when I visited Real Change, a newspaper that is sold by the homeless people so that they can afford a living. Its only when we take the time out to talk to them we understand how wrong we are about the stereotypes we have in our minds.

After having a mixture of various types of learning I would say that my summer of 2016 was the best. I would love to thank my host family or host mom as I would say, Nancy Coomer for enriching me about her life and giving mesome useful life hacks.

With Kshitiz's and my home stay mom, Nancy Coomer

During the last week of our stay in the USA, I visited Chicago for 3 Days and Washington D.C for 5 days. The experiences in these two cities are really different to the ones I had in Seattle, but they were amazingly great as well.

Lastly I would say that I have gained a lot of experience and that I have learned a lot  about the American culture, as much as I could in my stay there. Most of all I made friends and I can call them friends for life. Even though I reside in a different country I feel and know most of them are close to my heart and vice versa. Hopefully I will be packing my bags in the coming years to visit them.

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 Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders in Journalism and New Media in Seattle is hosted 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.

Guest posts on the FIUTS blog represent the experiences and views of individual writers. They do not necessarily reflect the views of FIUTS or any organizations or institutions affiliated with our programs.

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Saying "Welcome Refugees" in Vienna

Erna Mecavica, who participated in the FIUTS Youth Leadership Program with Bosnia and Herzegovina, writes about her experience volunteering to help refugees in Vienna, Austria.
 Saying "Welcome Refugees" in Vienna

Erna, right, and her sister Aida, who volunteered together to bring food to refugees traveling through Vienna

Guest post by Erna Mecavica, YLP Bosnia participant, Spring 2014

New Year is almost there; for someone it is a new beginning, for others it is just an extension of the past years, and for refugees it is a beginning of a new life. An unknown life which they didn’t just become; they had to go through so many horrible things, losing their home, loved ones, and past years of their life. Their road was long and exhausting, with too little help from us, from the rest of humanity. As I’m currently living in Vienna, I had the chance to see everything with my own eyes. The refugees were all over Vienna. Some of them, who had train tickets, were at train stations waiting for their trains to Germany, the "promised land," and the others, who had nothing, were everywhere, looking for help.

One day I was hurrying to my University because I was late. I was walking down the street as I saw an unexpected picture. Two refugees, an older married couple, were sitting on the road begging for food or money. It was a cold and rainy day and they had only a blanket to hide from the rain. People were passing, not even looking down to them. But then a little girl came and gave them two sandwiches. It was something that opened my eyes. I thought: "If a kid can give her food, even if she doesn’t know who the people are and what they been through, why can't we do this too?"

Later that day I was looking how to help, how to get involved, and I found an event on Facebook inviting everyone to volunteer one day for the refugees. They were working with Caritas and needed help by making sandwiches and distributing them to the refugees. As my sister and I came to the organized place, there were already people working on making sandwiches. There were about twenty of us from Austria, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and many other countries. It was amazing to see how we all worked together even if we didn’t know each other; how we met new people and made friendships only because we wanted the same thing: to help refugees.

The food was donated from local supermarkets or bought from the money which many people donated. We worked the whole day, one group made the sandwiches, and the others packed them. At the end we made about 3000 sandwiches, which was pretty amazing for only one day of work. The next step was to bring the food and drinks to the refugees. We decided to go to the two biggest train stations in Vienna, because there were most of them. So we came there and started to distribute the sandwiches and the drinks. All of the refugees were extremely thankful. Some of them, who knew English, talked with us about what happened to them and their hopes and plans for the future. Others, who didn’t know English, didn’t say anything, or said something on their mother language, but you could see that they just want to thank you for a simple sandwich and a bottle of water.

Sandwiches made by the volunteers in Vienna

At the end of the day, we were exhausted, but also happy. We went home, and they kept waiting for the trains, for their better life. To see and meet them makes you appreciate what you have: a home, a family, something to eat and days full of happiness and love. Everyone is talking about how we helped them, but I think that they helped us as much as we helped them, because nothing can make you feel thankful for what you have as much as seeing a tragedy in the world and knowing that it can also happen to you. I hope for all refugees that they found a new home, and I hope for everyone of us that this never happens again!

The Youth Leadership Program with Bosnia and Herzegovina is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. FIUTS hosted this program in Seattle from 2012-2014. Learn more about the program here.

Guest posts on the FIUTS blog represent the experiences and views of individual writers. They do not necessarily reflect the views of FIUTS or any organizations or institutions affiliated with our programs.

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SUSI Diaries

Shail Silwal from Nepal writes about her experiences this summer during the FIUTS SUSI program.

Guest post written by Shail Silwal, FIUTS SUSI participant, Summer 2016

White Beats headphone on maximum volume, tapping my feet and waiting for the flight details to be announced, I was seated with five of my other Nepali mates in Hamad International Airport. Had I known the journey of two months would be this exciting I wouldn't have wasted a single second. Ten minutes later came my friends from Srilanka and Bangladesh and we were ready to embark a journey towards Seattle, the Emerald city. If I was alone there, trust me, I would’ve lost my mind with that child in front of me crying throughout the journey, the bland food of Qatar airways and a Nepali grandma poking me every five minutes. But then Upakar, Upendra and Prashanti came to my rescue. By cracking riddles and jokes which made no logic and laughing so hard, easily catching attention of everyone around us, our journey started. As soon as we landed in Seattle, we saw the staff from FIUTS eagerly waiting for us with colorful paper signs. If only they knew how mischievous we were, they would probably have been a little less excited at our arrival!


Soft rain, colorful surrounding and lights everywhere - that’s how the University of Washington welcomed us. Sudden change in weather, people wearing multiple layers and with little Thailand, little Korea, little India and little other countries there was a small world in the premises of U-Dub itself. Sitting in a hall from 9 to almost 7 doesn’t sound exciting at all but the moments we stole from the time left were precious. The aroma of coffee from Starbucks in every block, the last minute of going through few pages of text books individually and sharing it with friends just in order to be safe from punishments and the random paper conversations while the classes were ongoing, that’s how our first week started. With such a huge time difference and the habit of reaching late to every place “a typical Nepali tendency”, it was really tough for us to adjust with the time schedule as punctuality was at its best there. In order to make our journey more fun FIUTS allotted each SUSI participant with an ambassador from the University of Washington. Mine was Mrunmayee Shetee. From history of journalism to the techniques of reporting and various leadership exercises the first week was fully packed.


In the first weekend, with our shades on, a bag full of enough food and water and ample of sunscreen applied on skin all the SUSI participants were ready for a hike. We hiked our way through the gigantic rocks of Mount Rainier, slipping, falling and getting up again amidst the melting snow on the mountain. We struggled on our hike but still managed to get good pictures of everyone! At the end of the long day we started a bonfire under the starry sky. Amid the silent pine trees in the windless night we made s’mores and sang songs in our respective languages and shared stories from home. It was a perfect weekend for all of us!


The next week our preparation for individual articles started. All the participants were either busy in their laptops searching contacts or busy talking to their ambassadors. Some were busy taking interviews on Skype while some were reading books to dig information. Just to help us get out of the monotonous schedule FIUTS took us to the Safeco field to watch a baseball game. Well I knew what baseball is but I didn't understand the game that well before then. Even after watching the entire match I couldn’t understand the game completely (though I understood many rules) but the fun in the virtual games that were played on the screen, the cheering, the hooting, the DAI HO LEE tune, the Mexican wave, the rhythm of the claps all were out of the world. Like the cherry on the cupcake, the fireworks made our night.

Slowly and gradually we had come to know the ways and alleys around the university. One of the shining moments of the second week was night stroll in Kerry park. Competing with the American children in the games, climbing the rope webs, falling from the spiral slides, finishing the maze and getting drenched in the international fountain brought the child inside me out.


The second and third weeks were full of site visits and who helped us "THE GOOGLE MAP lady." In order to help us understand about the execution of media houses, their functioning and the workstyle of the journalists in Seattle we were taken to TVW, KUOW, Geekwire, Seattle Weekly and the Seattle Times. One of the unique media houses I saw in Seattle was Real Change. It was very impressive because it employed homeless people for paper distribution. With our ambassadors we were taken to a cruise ride which was icy cold but as it was the first experience for us all, every one of us was excited. Uncountable jelly fish swayed with the waves with their tentacles constantly moving in the sea.

Besides the time difference, one of the hardest things to adjust with was the food in America. We south Asians who have been habituated to eat warm rice and lentils had to eat cold sandwiches and burgers everyday which kind of felt good the first few days but was difficult to cope up with. But when the district market started to prepare rice and pulses there used to be a long queue. It felt weird when I saw Nepali people in U.S. meet each other even when it would demand for travelling hours of distance but when we visited Nepali restaurants it was totally shocking to observe ourselves talking to every next other Nepali people.



I was not at all happy spending a major portion of my day inside a hall itself but when I look back integrating so many things in such a short time span couldn't have been better. Meeting different people in a new environment and learning newer things was a great experience. It was really challenging but rewarding for us to step out of our comfort zone. There were times when the people we were interacting with were not friendly at all and we would succumb. But once we did that we were able to understand that it was all in the brain. The execution of media houses there was completely different. The best part of the media people there was that every single individual would listen to your views and try their best to quench your curiosity. They would encourage and entertain our questions and every single task was transparent.


The fourth week was the most memorable one. It was our last week in Seattle and I believe we connected to each other in this very week. Preparation of momos with our ambassadors, random walks, chats, camp fire at the beach and games helped to make our bond even stronger. The participants with their ambassadors went for dinner, viewed the Seattle skyline from the top of Space Needle. In this week I got a new family outside my home – a sweet nephew, lovely pet Mia who would welcome me every time with its wagging tail and lovely dad and mom. With a separate room full of stuffed pandas everywhere, glass pieces with small pandas, statues of pandas, first hand and foot impressions of baby Ayden and building blocks just ahead of me Thompson family welcomed me. The home which I was sent for my homestay was similar to that I had expected my dream house to be. Every corner had different pieces from different parts of the world; one could feel the liveliness and happiness in the house as soon as one entered. My American dad and mom took me to Bavarian village of Leavenworth a place which ditto felt like the sets of Dilwale. Men dressed like cowboys were riding tourists in horse carriage with those beautiful draperies. Vintage homes lined by colorful flowers, antique pieces and lights all around it was a perfect place for a date. Mexican music and orchestra was playing around and children were blowing bubbles all around. Men and women were enjoying with pitchers of beers and it felt like they had the entire time in the world. I met Mateo who was just a child but made my remaining weeks in U.S lovely.


Leaving Seattle was very hard. It was tough to leave my new family and I was very sad to see the ambassadors crying (though I was the very one who was nagging everyone) but it had to be done as Chicago was waiting for us. Though the journey of Chicago started in a bittersweet (with the news of various gunshot cases and my dollars stolen) the other days helped me to forget it. Chicago was exactly the America which we picture in our mind – tall skyscrapers, busy people, big statues and museums.  The best part of Chicago was its nightlife. It felt like I could spend days looking at those colorful skyscrapers and the fountain which would dance with the background song merrily. In Washington DC, the visit to Newseum was no less. The way Newseum portrayed the history of journalism via 3D movie was commendable. History was never this fun. Looking the history so close that you could actually feel the world wars, the struggle of journalists, the challenges yourself is totally an unexplainable experience. As I am not that fond of museums DC did not turn out to be my dream destination but it was amazing to see how well the history was preserved and people were exploring for more details. History was worshipped initiatives were respected. Tombstones, memorials, scripts, objects were perfectly managed and there were guides who knew very single minor details of that places. Bus drives were carried out so that people could learn about it.



United States is undoubtedly a very beautiful place to be but Nepal would be much better only if it was a little developed. One of the best things of United States was that people respected profession regardless of what job you do and they highly prioritized independence. I could see ten-year-old girls playing violin in order to earn money. People invested a huge amount of their money on recreation and amassing materials. The other best part about States was that people were very hard working. If only program as SUSI would be conducted in Nepal it would demand for minimum 10-12 staffs which were handled by only five staffs in total. Majority of the teachers were females and it was quite encouraging to see them teach so well even with their babies with them. The daily tasks were very simplified with the use of technology. All the vegetables and fruits were cleaned before selling, all the things required for daily activities were available in very one store and with the use of machines like washing machine, dish washer and dicer the time to finish household chores was reduced to exactly fifty percent. It was really good to see how artifacts are preserved and explored more and more and the thirst for knowledge would never end. It felt amazing to see how any person could extract information from the places they like and journalists didn’t require certificates to practice journalism.


I believed that the leg pulling tendency is only prevalent in the south Asian political scenario but it was quite disturbing to see how low political contenders could stoop in order to achieve the position during electoral period even in the States. It might have advantages of its own but I was not at all happy seeing marijuana legalized. Children were directly exposed to it which was certain to encourage them to develop tendency as such in future.  I assumed that there would be no homeless people in states but after seeing homeless people living in tents under the bridge and asking for money I felt that whichever country you go there exist poor people. It was more surprising to see some homeless people wearing suits and carrying iPhones. Later after listening to various stories I realized that a millionaire yesterday would turn to be a beggar the very next day as the health facilities were too expensive. But unlike in south Asian countries people would not have to die of hunger as the government would distribute the food coupons and there were food banks from which the homeless people could collect food materials and toiletries. We in our home country believed that America is a progressive country with open minded people. With American government emphasizing so much on empowering women, creating safer environment for them and bringing new rights I believed that it would be a safe place or a place of imagination for women. I was totally shocked when I found that America was no different from our country.


Presenting all those shiny moments in words would be impossible. Nevertheless I will miss those irrelevant and nonsensical riddles of Upakar, “you know I read an article” of Prashanti, Raja sahaab Upendra’s orders, I will miss the obsessiveness of Muaad in coffee and energy drink, vintage homes of Bavarian village, the massage of Hiran, visit to capitol hill with Herish, the support of Jyoti, the cool attitude of Ananya, craziness of sarika, NO of Farzana, the beautiful skyline of Seattle. I will miss banging saucepans and shouting with baby Ayden I will miss breaking all the traffic rules and running to harbor bridge just so that we wouldn’t miss the cruise. I will miss the ride with my American daddy in Harley Davidson , dipping  legs in the ocean and feeling the sea tides. I will miss the night strolls in U-Dub. I will miss playing with snow and falling down after every five steps. I will miss the view of the glistening tunnels which I saw with the hair flying in the rhythm of the wind.


Thank you  Stuart Thompson and Lynn Thompson for being a warm and welcoming family in an unknown city. Sorry Era Schrepfer, Qanani Kalil, Ellen Frierson, Tom Lang and Benett Corey Anderson as I have been a pain many times. But thank you for forgiving me every single time. I can’t say how grateful I am to each and every one of you for making my summer this beautiful! Loads of love!

This post was originally published on Shail's personal blog here.

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 Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders in Journalism and New Media in Seattle is hosted 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.

Guest posts on the FIUTS blog represent the experiences and views of individual writers. They do not necessarily reflect the views of FIUTS or any organizations or institutions affiliated with our programs.

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Welcome, Pauline

Pauline Tolentino joined FIUTS last week as our new Student Programs Coordinator and we’re so glad to welcome her to our office!

Pauline Tolentino joined FIUTS last week as our new Student Programs Coordinator and we’re so glad to welcome her to our office! She'll be working with UW international students to organize programming, train and support facilitators, coordinate Wednesday lunch, and lots more. Here's Pauline, introducing herself to the FIUTS community:

My journey to FIUTS involves a lot of numbers, which is funny because I really do not like mathematics and I always say, “numbers are not my forte.” Let’s start with 1991, the year I was born in the Sorsogon province of the Philippines. I spent the first seven years of my childhood counting the miles between our home and Manila and the many other places my family would travel to do business or visit countless friends and relatives. Although my traveling was limited to my homeland, a sense of adventure, love for travel, an appreciation for the beauty of diversity in beliefs, practices, and thoughts, and a willingness to learn about others was ignited.

In 1999, my family and I flew across the Pacific Ocean to start a new life in the United States. We settled in Hamtramck, the “Polish town” of Detroit, Michigan, where I spent my 2nd and 3rd grade school years. This was the first time that I really learned about different cultures and peoples and sharing about my Filipino heritage with friends and neighbors who were coming from Bangladesh, Poland, Morocco, and all parts of the U.S. As my family moved from home number two, to three, to four, and so on, in the metro-Detroit area, I learned and shared more. Then, I learned and shared even more, when I started college in the Fall of 2010 at Loyola University Chicago and in the two years of graduate school at Seattle University. Between those six years of learning and higher education, I gained countless new friends and connections, visited London, England and other places like Boston, Baltimore, and Connecticut.

Now, here I am in 2016, two months after receiving my Master’s of Education in Student Development Administration and weeks of searching for the right opportunity to fulfill my love and desire to help others learn, lead, succeed, share, and contribute positively. I believe in the potential and capacity of others to become empowered leaders for positive, social change and connections, but that everyone needs the best of combination of knowledge, experience, opportunities, and support; I seek to be a supporter and educator in that way.

When I am not with the FIUTS family in the office or at our wonderful programs and events, I spend time with my partner, Dylan, trying out new things or visiting new places, binge watching a current Netflix obsession (“Peaky Borders,” “How I Met Your Mother”), cooking, arts and crafts, and baking (a lot). Oh, and sharing/liking/laughing out loud at panda-related pictures and videos!

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Welcome, Erika

FIUTS is very excited to have a new friendly face in the office! Meet Erika!

FIUTS is very lucky to have a new friendly face in the office! Erika is our newest intern from Japan and will be helping out with orientation this fall. Say hi to her when you see her around! Here she is, introducing herself to the FIUTS community:

Name: Erika Suzuki

Hometown: Japan

Year: Junior at Tokyo International University

About me: Hello! My name is Erika Suzuki. I am from Yokohama in Japan. The scenery in my hometown is kind of similar to Seattle, so I am comfortable to be in Seattle. Last year I had been studying for 10 months in Oregon, then I came to Seattle for a vacation. It was fun so I love Seattle. I like traveling, watching movies, going shopping, and playing basketball.  I am very happy to have an opportunity which I work outside of my country and help international students. I am always welcome to talk so come to say hi when you see me.

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FIUTS: A First-Time American Camping Experience

FIUTS students kicked off the summer with a camping trip to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest! Read on to hear more about the experiences of 3 FIUTS facilitators!

FIUTS students kicked off the summer with a camping trip to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest! Read on to hear more about the experiences of 3 FIUTS facilitators!

Kamal:

You never know exactly what you’re going to see when you go camping. Like every other  American style camp, I enjoyed the campfire and barbecue and games, but at midnight, many of  us decided to go down by the river and see the stars. Well, it wasn’t easy to navigate our way  over rocks in the dark to get there, but we made it. I personally didn’t know that I could see  many different stars than I am used to seeing just because we are in the North West. I couldn’t  stop looking at the sky with everyone else. Every once a while, a comet would cut a pretty line  through the tapestry of stars. All of us were trying to get pictures, but I gave up. I thought no  picture would be as amazing as seeing the stars in such a dark place away from the city lights.

The next day we drove to the hiking location. In the car, I started asking a few riddles and  everyone in the car was trying to solve them. They were really good; they spent whole time  trying to solve the riddles. It was like a competition. I should admit that they also asked some  riddles and some of them were difficult to me.

Hiking in the snow is always fun for me when the weather is sunny. Although it sometimes makes it a bit harder to hike, the snow is very beautiful. I couldn’t imagine how beautiful the view of Cascades would be at the top until we got there. It was really gorgeous. And among the beautiful mountains, the perimeter of the Hidden Lake could be seen. I guess we spent about one hour there just enjoying the pretty landscapes. One of the main things that makes me want to go back to Hidden Lake Lookout is sliding over the snow. On our way back down, we slid over the snow on our backs. I would never have thought about that when we started the trip.

 

Kevin:

“No one will die from stick germs!” I told them, “I’ve been roasting marshmallows with sticks off  the ground all my life. Hasn’t killed nobody yet.” Like every other FIUTS trip I’d ever facilitated,  I’d forgotten the skewers. I feel like it’s a pretty American thing to roast with sticks. I mean, just  the week before I was on a rafting trip that included a fireside BBQ, they didn’t bring skewers,  but nobody hesitated to grab sticks when it came time for s’mores. So bringing the skewers is  just one of those things that I fail to think of every time, but never fails to cause irritation.  Hesitant at first, everyone soon found a suitable stem with which to roast and nothing more was  made of it. I still should have brought the skewers, but a part of me is glad that I didn’t. I don’t  want to impose, but at least I was pushing people outside their comfort zones, right?

I’ve probably spent too much time thinking about that moment, but I really think it represents a  careful balance one must strike as a facilitator on such a trip. On one hand, I want to share my  culture and push people to try new things while they are here. On the other, I don’t want to force  anyone to do something that they really don’t want to, or present my way of doing things as  better than theirs. It’s a dilemma I’ve run into a lot. I can’t possibly know how to handle every  possible situation perfectly, but the aforementioned incident helped me think up a useful rule of  thumb: always encourage people to try roasting with a stick, but don’t forget to bring the  skewers.


Herish:

If you have not done american camping than you should try this at least once. I was facilitating this event, but I was also a firsttime American camper. Part of being a firsttimer is that you will be very enthusiastic and ready to face new situations and adventures. I was really amazed by the way American forest department and people maintain the camp sites. It was really close to river and best part is shallow cold white water (almost melted ice) the best for relieving your stresses after a long drive. I have never dived in such cold water other than once (in the Ganga [Ganges] river Holy river for Indians I did it as a religious ritual), but me and Kevin decided to make it an adventure. This experience was unforgettable and remarkable.

If you know how to make Indian tea, especially when you are camping (chill air, light sunlight, nice people), tea time will make morning golden for you. I made enough for 40 people, still we finished it among 22 (except for Kevin who was so impressed with the cold water dive that he missed the tea for a morning swim!). Tea helped us all wake up in the early morning after a late night of games and star watching and prepared us for the for best hike at Hidden Lake.

Friends and memories are what I got from this camping trip. Only student life can give you these moments, so don't miss opportunities and build stories for the future.

Join FIUTS in our events throughout the year! Check out our Calendar of Events. See you soon!

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