Saron, originally from Ethiopia, transferred from her school in Dubai to humble Calvin University in Michigan at the start of 2023.

Moving was a total shock. She had never experienced freezing weather. She had never felt so rushed and busy. And she had never had dining hall food instead of her beloved Ethiopian injera.

Above all, she had never experienced homesickness like this– would this feeling ever leave?

“I missed my family,” Saron said. “And I wish I could’ve had them with me.”

Despite the cultural differences and missing home, she held on tight to the warm welcome she received when her friend connected her with IFI, recalling how accepted she felt.  

The first thing was IFI’s love,” Saron said. “I felt so welcome because of their warm-heartedness and open doors, plus was able to meet so many other internationals.” 

Through IFI Grand Rapids, Saron was later connected with another like-minded ministry, Neighbors International, who matched her with a “Friendship Family”, as well. 

She was amazed at the hospitality and friendliness she received from her American family. They were kind and considerate. They had her over for the weekends and took her to church, something she was deprived of during her stay in Dubai. They provided home-cooked meals and gave her a space to study off-campus. They embodied God’s love for her. 

“They’ve been through everything with me,” Saron stated. “Even though I’m not their child, they treat me as though I was theirs. They’ve been a good family to me and I’ve seen God in that.” 

Saron encourages students struggling with life in the States to get connected.

“Any student who’s going through a hardship, it will all pass,” Saron stated. “Seasons change, but God remains the same.”