Foundation for International Understanding Through Students Programs
FIUTS partners with the University of Washington to provide International Student Orientation to more than 2,000 new international students each year. The FIUTS orientation program provides a context for what students will learn during their UW experience, supports students throughout the transition period, and connects them to strong global community.
Approximately 300 students each year participate in FIUTS' Short-Term Homestay program, which creates a connection between a visiting student and a local family. Hosts are volunteers who welcome new students into their homes, share their culture, and provide a safe place for new students to learn about U.S. culture.
FIUTS K-12 Education Outreach Programs connect UW international students and returned study abroad students to local schools. Programs range from guest speakers and language classroom support to a Pen Pal program with fourth-grade classrooms to CulturalFest, where more than 500 children visit the UW campus for a one-day event.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Recent Success: Youth Leadership Program with Bosnia and Herzegovina
In 2012, FIUTS was selected by the Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to host the Youth Leadership Program with Bosnia and Herzegovina. (YLP BiH).
The FIUTS YLP BiH welcomes two groups of high school students and teachers from across Bosnia each year for three years for a month-long leadership and personal growth experience focused on civic engagement, citizen participation, leadership, and volunteerism. Participants in this program take part in training, visit schools and local organizations, and become part of a strong cohort of young leaders who go on to work for change in their own communities. Recent Success: Taking CulturalFest to the Community
In the 1950's and 60's, FIUTS produced large-scale student events that were open to the community. The FIUTS International Show was presented for many years in the Seattle Opera House and was attended by hundreds of community supporters and host families. Over the next thirty years, FIUTS struggled as a small organization and the International Shows were not offered as part of our programs.
In 1999, the six-student FIUTS Student Board decided to start a new event, called CulturalFest, that would be modeled on the old "Cultural Show" format. They recruited student participants to manage cultural booths and offer music and dance performances from their country to a mostly student audience. The success of their first effort led them to produce another in the following year, and by 2003, CulturalFest had become an annual FIUTS event attended by around 100 students each year.
The event grew slowly over the next few years, eventually including school field trips and as many as 20 cultural booths and performance groups. In 2008, with the advent of FIUTS' 60th Anniversary, CulturalFest was moved to a larger venue and the performance element became a ticketed event. The advance ticket sales for the event, and the line out the door of the 140-seat theater was just a taste of what was to come. in 2011 and again in 2012, FIUTS CulturalFest was held at Meany Hall. Hundreds of student volunteers were involved in the event, which welcomed more than 2,000 daytime visitors (including 550 children on field trips from 15 schools) and more than 600 ticket holders. Over the past two years, we've moved the event to larger venues, and added a silent auction/fundraiser to the event to help cover costs and engage our community supporters, and we've seen a huge increase in community involvement and attendance in the event.
CulturalFest is a huge undertaking involving hundreds of volunteers and demanding an incredible amount of coordination from our small staff team, but it has become one of the most important events in the year at FIUTS. And for many UW students - both international and American - it has become one of the events that defines their experience as leaders and as part of our global community.
CulturalFest is a success because it is a rare opportunity to share the incredible talent, diversity, and vitality of our students with the wider community. Like all great programs, it allows us to reach out to potential supporters and also furthers our mission to provide practical cross-cultural experiences and leadership development for so many students at the same time.
Recent Success: The FIUTS Facilitator Program
The FIUTS Facilitator Program provides opportunities for more students to engage and build relationships within our community in a more meaningful way. We now offer quarterly trainings for facilitators and leadership retreats for small groups of facilitators who want to build on their cross-cultural skills. Facilitators serve an important role as mentors for other students and ambassadors of our programs to the campus and community. We currently have more than 180 facilitators, all volunteering at least four hours per quarter as peer leaders or participants in our K-12 and community outreach programs.
Current Need: Expanded Student Programming and Host Recruitment
As we have grown our programs over the past five years, they have become a bigger drain on our small staff team of 6. In the coming year, we hope to reach out to our partners to expand some of our programs in response to a significant increase in demand for cross-cultural experiences.
We will be seeking support from our funders and programming partners to expand our programming in student support, transition activities, homestay, and K-12 education outreach.