Welcoming the World to Columbia Since 1965
(c) 2015, Columbia Council for Internationals
PO Box 50954
Columbia, South Carolina 29250-0954

“Starting a new life in a new country was very hard for me.  I was very alone and missing my family.  There is a particular loneliness that will creep in when you spend particular holidays without your family.  My American family invited me to spend the holiday with them and was a great time for me to not be alone.  I was able to become familiar with American culture quickly.  I am so grateful to meet this family, and my parents are really happy I have met them too.”

Nassim from Iran, graduate and Ph.D. student

“I really didn’t have any idea what it would be like to meet an American family before I met them.  They are most helpful and some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life.  I cannot express my feeling of respect to them in words.  They have helped me in many ways and have become really good friends.

Krishna from Nepal, graduate and Ph.D. student

“I am a lucky woman because I feel I got my family back in Columbia.  I love my American family very much, and they love me very much.”

Narayan from Nepal, wife of a student

“It was really a wonderful experience when I met our American family for the first time.  They were so helpful and full of positive energy.  We did many new things together with them.”

Firouzeh from Iran, wife of a university researcher

"Participating in this program has shown me and my family just how much all people have the same hopes, dreams and desires no matter where they are from.  We have so enjoyed learning about different cultures and sharing our culture as well.  Some of our fondest memories with internationals have been  in simple things like watching them eat their first piece of pizza or hamburger or seeing their face when they walk into a Walmart or Target.  Many things are different for them and being a part of seeing them experience our world for the first time, is pretty amazing."

Jackie Richards, Community Friend

Welcome to the Community Friends Program!

The Community Friends Program helps match international students and visitors with Midlands American families.  It is a great way to make all international visitors feel welcomed, accepted and valued and to help international visitors transition to their new surroundings.  It is also a great way to learn about and share each other’s traditions and culture. 

These connections are made in many ways.  Community friends may invite the International visitor(s) to participate in an individual or group event such as coffee, dinner or cookout.  They may host the international visitor at a cultural event or local tourist attraction.  These connections may be a one-time event or participants may choose to schedule further interactions based on mutual desires and interests. 

It is truly rewarding for both American families and internationals!
Dear International Student!

Welcome to Columbia and the great state of South Carolina!  We are so glad that you are here, and we hope that you enjoy your time in the United States.

Coming to another country can be quite overwhelming. That is all normal.  Not only are you experiencing a different place, culture, and possibly language, but many of you are also challenged with a whole new learning experience at a college or university.  We want to help make this transition a little easier for you. 

Many students/visitors have found it very helpful to meet an American family so that they can learn the culture quickly and learn how to navigate the community to get the resources they need to manage their new home and settle into the community.  If we were in your country, we would need the same kind of hospitality and support too! 

CCFI has a program called Community Friends -- for students, spouses, researchers, faculty and visitors who are temporarily located in the Columbia area - where we introduce you to an American family or individual who would like to share their culture with you and get to know you.  These connections will be made in many ways.  Community friends may invite you to participate in an individual or group event such as coffee, dinner or cookout (a party or gathering where a meal is cooked and eaten outdoors).  They may invite you to a cultural event or local tourist attraction.  These connections may be a one-time event or participants may choose to schedule further interactions based on mutual desires and interests.  Often, lifelong friendships are developed with these families.  For some, it is a nice relationship to have just during the adjustment period when you arrive.  Either way, most students and visitors finds this very helpful and an enriching experience. 
Dear Midlands Community Member!

Thank you for your interest in the CCFI Community Friend program!  So many university students, researchers and visitors from around the world come to the Columbia area and never have the opportunity to meet an American family.  But that doesn’t have to be the case, with the help of people like you, we can change that for many international visitors.    This connection can set the tone for their entire experience in our country.  This will have an impact on you and your family as well.  You will quickly learn that while we have many things in common with internationals, their culture is quite different from your own.  This cultural exchange can be quite fascinating and eye opening.   

As you can imagine, it can be quite overwhelming to come to another country and not know anyone.  CCFI will offer this program to students, researchers and visitors as they arrive.    As soon as we receive the application from them, we will quickly match them with a Community Friend.    As this is a new program, we are unsure what the level of interest will be.  You may hear from us immediately or it may be a while before we match you with someone.   

You and your international will decide what kind of relationship you would like.  Some relationships are more short term, but many turn into lasting friendships.  You may find that they need you most when they are new to the country.  As they settle in and meet friends, they may not need as much contact.    Please contact your international friend within the week of match.  Make some plans together whether it be dinner or an outing.  After your first visit, do a follow up (call, text or email) with them to see how they are doing.  They really appreciate that.  If you have any questions about Community Friends or how to apply, please feel free to  email us at ccficommunityfriends@gmail.com.