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FOI volunteers and UMKC students Ali Stallbaumer (far left) and Phung Ho (far right) take a photo with two new international students. (Anna Ryan)

UMKC’s student organization Friends of Internationals (FOI) hosted their annual welcome party earlier this month with food, activities and opportunities to connect with people of diverse cultures from all over the world. 

FOI is a Christian volunteer group serving international students at UMKC by providing access to services to make their transition to the United States easier. This includes services like airport pickups, cultural exchange events, conversational English practice and other community-building events throughout the year. Setting up bank accounts, providing additional car rides and helping with grocery store trips are also services that FOI provides.   

Some FOI volunteers who live close to UMKC have even offered to house international students, like Breanna and Brent Fitzpatrick. The couple said that they have lost count of the number of international students they have hosted over the years.

“You want to be that transitional place where someone feels safe and doesn’t have to worry about housing, meeting friends and the community of Kansas City,” Breanna said. “They’re people, and people ought to be cared for.”

Bryan Khoo is a UMKC computer science major from Malaysia who took advantage of FOI’s airport pickup services. Khoo said that his experience and the love shown by the FOI volunteers made him more interested in getting involved in the organization.

“I wanted to know where that love came from and share the same love and make sure that people don’t feel the way I felt,” Khoo said.   

The community-building aspect has been an emphasis for the organization and has been a draw for many of the volunteers to the organization as well, including Victoria Khan, a Kansas City local. 

“There’s people that come from all over the world who are actually trying to be friends,” Khan said.

Students at this year’s welcome party enjoyed the home-cooked food, photo booth, badminton and other games. UMKC computer science major and international student Lohith Reddy Kamujula attended the event and said that they would definitely recommend that other international students come to FOI’s events.

“I feel like this is home,” Kamujula said.

Interested students can attend upcoming FOI events include a Corn Maze trip on Saturday, Oct. 9 and a Cultural Exchange event on Saturday, Oct. 16. 

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