Photo Courtesy of International Friendships Incorporated

International students biked on a towpath as part of an International Friendship Inc. event, connecting with other international students and Americans.


February 29, 2016

International Friendships Inc. promotes cultural exchange

International Friendships, Inc. Cleveland (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 American volunteers from local churches who are interested in cross-cultural exchange and who help meet the practical needs internationals face in living in another culture.

Paul Solano and his wife, Debbie, are volunteers with IFI and serve as the ministry leaders for Cleveland State University.

“We typically plan events tied to the time of year,” Solano responded in an email interview. “During the 2015-2016 [school] year, IFI Cleveland has hosted a number of social events and there will be more events planned in the coming months.”

Some benefits that IFI provides to international students include developing international friendships by attending Global Intervarsity/IFI Coffeehouse group discussions, establishing a “Friendship Partner” with an

American person/family, Bible study opportunities, airport pickups and temporary housing.

The organization also offers an English as a Second Language club for students who would like to practice their English skills outside of school while building friendships with other international students and Americans.

“First, we’d like to think that IFI Cleveland has made these students feel welcomed, valued and loved,” Solano said. “Also, because students who come and study in the U.S. typically hold leadership positions back home, we’d also like to think that good will is being built between our countries.”

“Volunteers and their families also grow by personally experiencing other cultures and their customs,” Solano added.

IFI is not limited to Cleveland. It can also be found in different cities in Ohio such as Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Muskingum. It has locations nationwide, including North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Oregon.

Those interested in becoming involved can find more information at


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