Global Friends Program

This is a cultural exchange program that matches WashU international students and scholars with members of the Washington University community.

Students and host volunteers meet about once a month throughout the academic year and do activities that interest them.

Hosts and students pose together in a host's homeBy participating in the program, students can learn about St. Louis and U.S. cultures, practice conversational English with supportive conversation partners, and hear St. Louisans’ perspectives on topics of interest.

Volunteers can pursue their interests in other cultures, hear first-hand accounts of life in an international student’s home country, and rediscover St. Louis through the eyes of an international student. Together, students and volunteers can develop connections that transcend borders.

Note: Host volunteers do not provide living accommodations.

Interested Students

Hosts and students pose together at a restaurant
Applications will be accepted in late fall; check back soon. Please complete the student application to sign up.

Volunteers

Now accepting applications! Please complete the volunteer application to get started.

Contact Information

For more information about any of the programs, or to update your information, contact the OISS via email or phone at 314-935-5910.

Ongoing Activities

Hosts and students pose together at a cultural activityFor students and scholars, the OISS Events Calendar lists upcoming events, workshops, field trips and more. Events such as ‘Halloween pumpkin carving’ and ‘Baseball 101’ are a fun way to learn more about U.S. culture. We also do trips in St. Louis and the surrounding area where you can experience life off campus.

Information for Students and Hosts

Why be a host?

Your participation shows our international students that they are welcomed, respected and included in the WashU and St. Louis community.

WashU is fortunate to host over 3,000 international students from 94 countries. As a volunteer, you not only help students understand St. Louis and U.S. cultures, you also help form impressions of St. Louis and the U.S. that international students will carry with them for the rest of their lives. During a time when they are far from family and friends at home, your care and support means a great deal.

Volunteering is also an exciting way to learn from the student about their home country, their field of study and get their unique perspective on many issues. Individuals and families affiliated with WashU are welcome to apply.

Why be a student guest?

By participating in the program, students can learn about St. Louis and U.S. cultures, practice conversational English with supportive conversation partners, and find out what life is really like off‐campus. You will also have the opportunity to share with your host your own experiences, traditions and culture. Students can develop connections that transcend borders, and make a new friend!

What activities will we do together?

It’s up to you! One of the most rewarding activities can be a meal at the host’s home. However, you are free to arrange any number of activities that you enjoy; see below for more ideas.

Length of Match and Frequency of Get‐Togethers

Students and volunteers are typically matched for the academic year. Students and volunteers will ideally meet once per month, so we ask hosts to contact your student once per month to try to arrange a get‐together.   After the academic year finishes you are welcome to keep in touch if you wish to. We have many volunteers and students who have formed lifelong friendships.

Cost of Activities and Transportation

Hosts should mention the costs of activities you suggest at the start of the conversation/correspondence with your student, and offer your student options so that he or she can select an activity that fits their budget. Volunteers are not required to cover the cost of their student’s participation in activities.

Please also be aware that many students do not have their own car and so you should discuss transportation for your activities.

Activity Ideas

  • Hosts can ask their student what he or she likes to do for fun, and what he or she has already had the chance to do in St. Louis.
  • Arranging a meal at the host’s home can be a wonderful way to connect and give the student a window into American life that they do not get in the classroom. Introduce the student to your favorite dish and exchange stories about food and home life in your respective countries.
  • Students can suggest a restaurant that serves food from their home country and teach the host about their cuisine and traditions.
  • Visit a museum, go to a sporting event, go to a local festival or share a favorite book or movie.
  • Students can give a “my daily life” tour of campus, showing their host volunteer the buildings/services he or she uses.
  • The possibilities are endless!

We do our best to match all volunteers and students who sign up; however, we cannot guarantee a match for every student or host.