“I really felt like I was another member of the family.” Leah, a Ph.D. Aerospace Engineering scholar from China, said this after staying with an IFI host family.

Leah arrived in the US in August 2019, and although she lived with Chinese roommates, she felt increasingly lonely. This drove her to seek friends by joining an IFI Spring Break trip.

On the trip, Leah met IFI volunteers, Mike and Tish, who invited her to stay in their home for the remaining six months of her program. This was Leah’s turning point: making new friends that ultimately helped her “learn how to love.”

“I’m just like another daughter,” says Leah.

You help students like Leah (2nd from left) feel like part of a family.

Leah found it different to be living with Americans at first, but soon she found herself becoming part of the family, eventually calling them “Uncle and Auntie.” When Leah told Tish that she didn’t have an English name, Tish suggested the name “Leah,” a name she had saved for her first child who ended up being a boy. Leah was amazed, “Woah, that means she really likes me and I’m just like another daughter.”

Before Leah returned to China, Mike and Tish held an early Thanksgiving and Christmas tree decorating day, just for Leah. Now, Leah says, “I know how to love people. Everyone needs love. IFI can give that for free.”