What is International Friendships (IFI)?
IFI’s mission is to extend life-changing hospitality and friendship to international students out of reverence to Jesus.
IFI is a Christian community organization that works in partnership with universities and volunteers to promote friendship and hospitality for international students, scholars and family members. IFI links international students with US American volunteers from local churches who are interested in cross-cultural exchange and who help meet the various practical needs internationals face in living in another culture. IFI also partners with internationals through on-campus student organizations.
Who may participate?
Our programs and activities are open to students of all nationalities and religions; any international student, visiting scholar, or spouse who wants to get to know other international students and US American volunteers can participate. Families are always welcome.
How can International Friendships help you?
Social: International Friendships provides opportunities for you to meet US Americans who will open their homes and hearts to you. They can help you practice English. They will be glad to learn about you and your country as they help you learn more about USA.
Cultural: Throughout the year, International Friendships takes trips to various places of interest in the United States. These could be day or extended trips. Special activities are often planned during holidays.
Spiritual: Small groups meet weekly to talk about life and/or discuss Bible topics. Visits to local churches can also be arranged.
Help: When you first arrive, volunteers are available to pick you up at the airport and/or provide temporary housing for up to four days. We are here to help you settle in and answer any questions you may have about life in USA. We want you to feel at home in Cincinnati, OH.
Jim Gifreda, City Director
Welcome to Cincinnati! I am an Ohio boy since birth and have lived in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. I attended college at both University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University and have a BA in History from OSU. I married my wife Carolyn in Columbus and together we raised our three (now grown) children here in Cincinnati. My introduction to working with international students occurred first at OSU where two of my roommates were brothers who were refugees from southeast Asia. In Cincinnati, I participated in a Chinese English Bible study group and eventually volunteered for IFI in various capacities over the last 30 years. In my role as City Director, I want to facilitate increasing the quality and effectiveness of IFI’s communication with international students. Toward this end, the efficient leveraging of the power of our extremely capable group of front-line volunteers must be maximized. Further, I am focused on further developing partnerships between IFI and churches and businesses in our local communities. Life changing hospitality and friendship don’t come about spontaneously, and I have decided to devote my life full time to IFI in a ministry that is well-established in Cincinnati. Again, I most heartily welcome you to Ohio.
Julie Rhine, Campus Staff
Hi! In my former job I traveled to many different countries where my love for international students was born. I’ve been on IFI/Cincinnati staff since 2004 and I serve international students with my husband Robert and our children. We have had many international students live with us at various times in our lives. My loves are my family, music, singing, playing guitar and traveling. I really like to plan short- and long-distance trips around the country for students such as to New York City, Florida or the Smoky Mountains. We host and lead a weekly Friday night multicultural Bible study. We hope to meet you soon!
Dale and Cheryl Ramsey, Campus Staff
Hi! We are Dale and Cheryl Ramsey. I (Dale) am originally from Cincinnati though I grew up mostly on a small farm an hour’s drive away. Cheryl lived most of her childhood and adult years in West Africa. Our post-high school training was primarily in cross-cultural studies. We met each other in Guinea, West Africa, and after living there for 20 years, recently returned to the US where we ourselves feel a bit like visitors. After living so many years in another country, we can understand well the challenges of learning a language and adjusting to a new culture. It is our joy to learn much about other cultures and make friends among students as we take them on short trips to various attractions, hike through the woods near our country home, host them for overnight visits, make meals and celebrate holidays together, and help them in any way that we can. Cheryl frequently meets with student’s wives, we both meet with families in their homes and we are quite often on UC campus in the TUC atrium. There we listen to student’s questions and challenges, help them improve their understanding of English and US American culture, or learn more about God through discussion and Bible study. We lead a weekly Friday night group to discuss LIFE topics.
Pat Durst, Campus Staff
Hello! I grew up in northwestern PA, graduated from Hiram College, then moved to NJ to teach music at the elementary school level. Lots of my NJ neighbors were from abroad! I also taught elementary music near Cincinnati, OH, then became a student and a worker in CA, where I enjoyed the influence of people from many cultures for about five years. After a short second stay in Cincinnati I taught English in China for several years. I began to get to know international students in 1996 shortly after I returned to the US. Our activities then, including English and Bible classes, eventually grew into what is now International Friendships, Inc./Cincinnati. I enjoy classical music, drama, playing board games and word games, baking, hosting small groups in my home and learning as I meet people from all over the world. It is also a great joy to connect students with IFI Volunteers who host them when they first arrive or at Thanksgiving or as Friendship Partners.