The general student body has probably never heard of iFace before. I would not have if my roommate, Ting Chen 24', was not involved in the organization. iFace connects international students to families located near their university. In our case, the program connects Furman international students with Greenville families. Their mission is to build community and to support international students with a strong network of friends they can rely on. That said, let us dive into what iFace is and what Furman's international students are gaining from this unique opportunity.
Let me first introduce Ting. She is originally from China, but moved to the States when she was 12 years old. She has been involved in iFace since the beginning of Fall 2021 and has participated in various "connect" events hosted by iFace staff and volunteers.
I interviewed Ting to have a better understanding of iFace and learn about what the program has to offer!
What is iFace?
To me, it means a bridge to connect the international student community to the Greenville community.
Where are iFace events typically held?
Each semester, one of the families from the Greenville community is chosen to be the host family or they can volunteer to be the host family. All the events will be held by the host family. For bigger events, such as the Thanksgiving dinner, we went to a church. Although events are often held at the church, they do not host them.
What activities do you participate in?
We meet at Furman's admission parking lot and talk to the rest of our international friends while we wait for transportation. We then head off to the meeting location, usually the host family’s house at 6:30pm. After we gather and talk a little more, we will have a small game for the whole group when everyone arrives. After the game, we have dinner provided by Katie (the organizer of iFace) and other community members who participate in iFace. Then, we either have discussion time or holiday related events. For a normal monthly event, Katie will prepare a topic and divide us into 4 to 5 groups (each group has around 7 people, including 1 to 2 community members). Here, we engage in conversation about our opinions and each one of us takes turns sharing our opinions. One time, we talked about cultural misconceptions and at the beginning of the year, we talked about our expectations and the reality of America. For a holiday month, we participate in various American traditions like carving pumpkins for Halloween and decorating Christmas cookies and singing Christmas songs together for December (a Christian tradition, of course). After the activities session, they take us back around 9pm.
What has been your favorite memory so far?
I have many wonderful memories, but my favorite has to be when we all gathered on a playground at the back of a church and talked about ourselves and expectation of America. I say this, because this was the first time that we got to meet and converse with other international students on a deeper level. Overall, the conversation was intimate, but also super funny.
What are friendship families? Can you describe the friendship family dynamic and how often you visit with them?
Friendship families are a match between an international student and a local Greenville family. You take a questionnaire about yourself, and Katie will find a family she believes best matches you. You and the family will get to know each other and just hangout! To me, my friendship family feels like a relative living in Greenville; they pick me up to explore the community, talk to me, and care about me. I usually see my friendship family once a month since they are the host family for the year. We also hangout outside of the activity days.
What have you gained from being part of iFace?
I have learned about other cultures and have gotten to know a little more about international students, widening my view of the world. I have also learned to share my opinions and to respect others' points of view.
Click https://iface.org if you are interested in learning more or want to get involved as a volunteer!