International Friendship Program

students playing the name game thumbs up students at welcome picnic

Attention New International Students

The Office of International Programs and Services at ETSU encourages you to apply for our International Friendship Program (IFP).  There are two parts to IFP:  our International Host Program and our Buccaneer Buddy Program (IBB).  You may apply for either or both programs.  If you apply for the IFP Host Program, you will be paired with an ETSU faculty or staff volunteer who will help you during the first few days after your arrival. Please note that this program is only available to new students coming to ETSU for the first time and hosts cannot accommodate family or friends traveling with the student. The benefits of applying for the program are:

  • You would have someone to pick you up at the airport, feed and house you the first night or two, help you move into your new campus housing, and take you shopping for the things you might need for your housing.
  • You would quickly know someone who works at ETSU who could answer your questions and help you as you adjust to life here.
  • You will have someone to show you around the campus and the city when you first arrive, so you can more quickly become familiar with your new home.

If you apply for the IBB, you will be placed in one of several small groups of around 25-30 students that includes both American students and other international students. The benefits of applying for the IFP Buccaneer Buddy Program are:

  • You would have American students to show you around campus and help answer questions about campus life and American culture.
  • You would have the opportunity to engage in new and fun activities and experiences with your group, including service activities.
  • You would be able to make new friends from around the world.
  • You will more quickly adapt to the life and culture here and have a richer experience of life in the USA.

There are limited openings for the program so the earlier you apply the better the chance of being served.  The deadline for applying for Fall semester is August 10 and the deadline for Spring semester is December 10.  Following the applications below you can read what recent international students said about their experience with IFP and IBB.

International Host Program Application

Buccaneer Buddy Program Application

Buccaneer Buddy Program Application for returning ETSU students only

Recent International Students Experience with IFP Host Program

Elody Catinel - FranceElody Catinel - France

I am very happy that I applied for the IFP program! I had 3 flights to go to Johnson City, and I was very tired at my arrival. When I saw those 3 people smiling and waiting for me at the airport, I felt really relieved not to be by myself in this city that I didn't know. Thanks to my host family, I did not have to worry about where to go or what to eat when getting off the plane. Angela and her daughters were really friendly and helpful! They gave me a tour around the city, gave me some cultural information about the US, took me to stores to subscribe to a cell phone carrier and buy school supplies, and helped me to move into the dorms. We always kept contact during the semester, and they invited me several times to do activities or have dinner with them. Angela is really talkative and cheerful, so it was always pleasant to discuss things with her! I am really thankful to them, and I would be glad to receive them as well if they come to my country!


Lisha ChenLisha Chen - China

A host can be like your real family in America and offer you almost all the help you need. After a long time exhausting flight, I came into America. My host not only picked me up from the airport, but also treated me like my parents and let me feel at home. You may cannot imagine that a person who goes to somewhere that she never been to alone, and have some language and culture barriers, if a nice, considerate and patient host can help she adjust to the new environment smoothly, she can consider the host as angel, which is my experience. A host is more than a hotel that picks you up from airport and supply great accommodation to you. A host not only can offer you what hotel does (without any charge), but also can provide you with spiritual support that cannot be bought with money, but is very significant to a new international student, in fact.



Tess Israel, Netherlands


My name is Tess Israel and I’m from the Netherlands. I want to tell you a little bit about my (great) experience with having a host family. At first, I was a little skeptical about it. I was already living on my own for 3 years and was expecting good public transports. However, life in the States turned out to be totally different compared with my life back home, especially in such a small place as Johnson City.  Having a host family made my arrival much more relaxed. The first few days I got used to the American time zone in a ‘family like’ environment. My American parents took me shopping, showed me around campus and could answer all the questions I still had.  But also now, during the semester, they let me experience the real American life by inviting me over for dinner or taking me to some nice places in and around Johnson City.  So, besides that having a host family is really practical, it also gives you the opportunity to experience more of the American culture. I would say: “Just fill out the form; having a host family is great!’.

Shi Dexin, China

Before I left China, I applied for the friendship program for international students in ETSU. I thought, well, it is not a bad thing; at least, I could have someone pick me up from the airport. However, this program gave me much more of a surprise; what I got was not a simple host, but also friendship and an American family. 

I will never forget the moment I arrived at Tri-City airport. Other international students and I walked restlessly into the waiting hall.  I saw my name on a paper held by my host person, , a beautiful lady with short, curly blonde hair named Kim. I waved my hand and said hello to her. She gave me a big smile which blew my tensions away. We introduced ourselves to each other and then we went to her house. We talked a lot on the way home. She spoke slowly and when my poor English was not fluent, she smiled and encouraged me. This was the first time I had spoken English to a native speaker, but I did not feel bashful; on the contrary, I became more confident.

In her house, I met her family members, and we had a welcome party that night with Lissy, another host person and her host students. We ate a big meal and had a great time talking. I stayed one night in Kim’s house since the university dorm building was not available. The next day, Kim drove me to get familiar with Johnson City and the campus. She helped find what I needed at Walmart and the grocery store, and helped me move in to my dorm.

More than that, in these nine months since I came to the U, S., we became really good friends. Although China is 8,000 miles away, Kim gave me a warm, family feeling here in Johnson City. I cannot find the proper words to describe my thankfulness for Kim and the friendship she gave me.

Recent International Students Experience with IBB

Stacey Vernon

Stacey Vernon, Ireland

When I applied for my course at home I knew that my third year was going to be spent in America so I had looked forward to studying in the US for many years. It had always been a dream for me to study in the states and I was under the impression that because English is my first language it shouldn't be much of a culture shock for me. Once I arrived I realized how I was definitely under the wrong impression! I may not have the language barrier but everything here, from the food to the education system, is completely different from that at home. I was very shy and quiet and was lost in a state of anxiety and depression for the first few weeks. I cannot put into words how much the IBB program helped me. I was placed with an amazing buddy who really helped push me out of my comfort zone and experience different things. As I am a vegetarian the food here is pretty limited, especially since I don't know my way around! However, my buddy is also vegetarian and gave me great help in finding food which I enjoyed. She also introduced me to new people, showed me around campus and was a good friend at the time I needed it most. She helped me when I was missing home which I appreciated so much. It can feel pretty lonely when you're in a whole new country and you know nobody! From the IBB picnic I also met another American student who did so much for me. She introduced me to other Irish students, took me shopping and we even had an international cooking night where we cooked dishes from home. It was such a good experience and from that I met one of my best friends here! Overall it has given me so much confidence and now I have more friends than I ever did at home! I'm enjoying my classes and taking part in so many activities. I am so incredibly thankful for the IBB program because it has opened my eyes so much. It has encouraged me to set up a similar program at my home university and because I am enjoying my time here so much I am even looking into coming back for grad school! None of this would have been possible without the IBB program and I thoroughly recommend it to any international student.

YonYan DongYanYang Dong, China

I have never imagined that I could make so many international friends here in the States! But thanks to International Buccaneer Buddy Group (IBB Group), I got to know many awesome people from South Korea, Japan, Russia, Brazil, Spain, Ivory Coast, Holland, Mexico, Honduras, France, Germany, and also America. We did lots of fun activities and hung out together. I got to know their stories, and learned that each one of us is the ambassador of our own country since we have different national identities and embody our own cultures. What’s more, I learned that there are no barriers that prevent us from becoming good friends. My buddy, Inga Sarkodie, is originally from Belarus and immigrated with her family to the States. Inga is my Best Buddy, she gave me a campus tour at the beginning of the semester, helped me with my paper writing (which is challenging for me) and drove me to places like restaurants, Walmart, Best Buy. She lent me her camera for my spring break travelling and gave me lots of suggestions on career planning! Inga Sarkodie, my Best Buddy, is super nice and cool! One semester is short, but without IBB, without all the wonderful friends, I wouldn’t have such a meaningful and interesting exchange experience here at ETSU. Because of them, I feel no homesick, cause we are like a big international family who support and bring happiness to each other!

Sasan AhovanSasan Ahovan - Iran

When I came to ETSU I found IBB in my registration process and joined. After that someone called me that said, “I am your buddy and I can help you with your shopping and everything!” His name is Hagan and he is a good guy. He took me for shopping and to some restaurants. He also took me to the social security office for doing my official works and he invited me to a bluegrass festival in another city, because I am studying the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music degree. Hagan always lets me know about all the upcoming events and meetings. Thank goodness that I found IBB and that I am one of them.

Hongyu Cong, China

When I arrived here, I felt so depressed because of the cultural shock. Everything was so novel for me. I did not know how to communicate with my classmates, how to deal with my difficulties, even how to register for classes, etc. I was so shy that I always worried I would do something wrong and be embarrassed. I did everything cautiously and always felt lonely and homesick. The conflict between the two cultures made me anxious. I had no American friends to teach me how to adapt to American life. And because of my limited spoken English, I always worried about communicating with American students. It was so embarrassing when I ordered food in a restaurant. The first semester was the most difficult for me. Early in the second semester, I went to a social evening of the International Buccaneer Buddy Program. I met a lot of enthusiastic American students who were all ready to help us. They were friendly, introduced themselves to me, and talked with me. They told me a lot of things which I had never heard about. I was so lucky to make a good friend that evening with Jesse, an American student. We talked to each other for a long time about the difference in cultures of China and America. He even told me how to get along with Americans. After that, we became good friends. We sometimes eat together and talk about the things which we are both interested in, from political events to culture. Because I am an art science student, I always have a lot of papers to write. He regularly helps me correct my papers. Under Jesse's help, my English skills have improved dramatically. I very much appreciate the International Buccaneer Buddy Program as it gave me the opportunity to know Jesse. Now, I have adapted to the American life much better than before. With Jesse's help, my English skills have improved quickly and I also have become more confident. I encourage new international students to apply for the program.

Rina Awano, Japan

Lucky for me, I found out about the Buccaneer Buddy program through an email that was supposed to go to another girl who had applied for the program, and it gave me the chance to learn about the program and meet my wonderful American friend. Although I was a little bit anxious about what she would be like before I first met her, I forgot my anxieties the moment I met her. She is a really friendly and nice person and always tries to help me and make me feel comfortable. Also, she sometimes asks me to hang out with her or do things together. Conversation with her is so interesting, and we discovered that our favorite TV show is the same, so it's so funny when I am talking about it with her! I feel I'm such a lucky person to have her as a friend. Since we international students often feel homesick or nervous because of cultural differences or something like that, to have a partner who listens and talks to you is beneficial and makes your life here more enjoyable! I'm really glad that I got the wrong email and ended up getting to know her!

ibb facebook button

direct edit