Approximately 200 people filled an empty Kansas City building to greet new international students and build friendships and community at the end of January. Games, conversation and homemade biryani were all available to visitors at the Friends of Internationals’ (FOI) annual welcome party.
Raja Bale, an FOI member of two years who attended the party on Jan. 29, said he appreciated the group for introducing students from different countries and backgrounds to one another.
“There’s a lot of diversity,” Bale said. “That’s what UMKC is known for. This is a great opportunity for the international students to hang out and meet new people.”
According to their website, UMKC is home to about 1,400 international students from over 85 different countries. Friends of Internationals is a Christian volunteer group that looks to serve this large community, with chapters operating on different campuses nationwide to invite international students into the local communities and offer help when necessary.
According to their Instagram page, the group is active in Kansas City at UMKC, Johnson County Community College, Metropolitan Community College and Kansas University Medical.
Myles Cheadle, a former UMKC student and current leader of FOI, said that the organization helps students with their transition to the U.S. with “kindness and a smile.”
To Cheadle, one of the greatest services FOI offers is airport rides for international students from the KC airport to campus or their living arrangements. The service is free and carried out by volunteer members in the community.
“You can imagine if you’re coming from a different country, where English is not your first language, you get to the airport and you don’t know how to get to where you’re going,” Cheadle said. “To have someone that’s there to welcome you and help you get situated makes a huge impact.”
FOI also hosts a number of events to help connect students with one another and the KC area. These events include cultural exchanges, dinners and themed parties. One of the upcoming events is a Super Bowl party on Feb. 13.
To get involved with the organization, students can visit the student organization office, check out the FOI website or drop by any of their weekly events.
Cheadle encouraged all UMKC students to join the group.
“There’s a lot of international students, but there’s a lot of Americans as well,” Cheadle said. “It is so important for locals to get involved and help welcome the students coming from all over the world.”