Community Friends

What is the Community Friends Program and how does it work?

The AUAP provides opportunities for students to experience American life and culture through a variety of program-wide activities. The Community Friends Program is one way for AUAP students to interact with Americans.

The Community Friends program matches AUAP students with families and individuals from the Bellingham community for conversation, friendship, and cultural exchange.
Community Friends volunteer to invite AUAP students into their home at least one time during the students' stay at Western. The visit allows the students to see American home and family life and share some elements of Japanese culture.

What is the Community Friends Gathering?

Families and students are introduced to each other at an initial gathering hosted by AUAP on Western's campus (in October or March). At this gathering, students enjoy “hosting” their Community Friends by offering tea and cookies and teaching origami. At the end of the gathering, families and students can arrange a date for their home visit. Although many students visit their Community Friend’s home more than once, any additional activities are optional and up to the Community Friends.

Who can be a Community Friend?

Anyone can! If you live in the community and are interested in learning about Japanese culture or want to share your culture with someone else, you can be a Community Friend.
Although many students are interested in families with children, many other students prefer single adults and couples without children.

What do past Community Friends have to say about the Community Friends Program?

"WWU's AUAP Community Friends Program is an opportunity to get involved in an excellent program that engages participants in learning about diversity of thought and people. Taking the students out for pizza at La Fiamma, sharing meals at home, having ice cream at Mallards, and bowling downtown allowed us to enjoy and share everyday American life with them. In my experience, the best part was seeing my daughter try a homemade Japanese meal that our students prepared for us. Japanese stew is delicious! I appreciate the opportunities I had for personal growth and to be able to give back to students.”
-Shar Sarte Prince, WWU-AUAP Community Friend

What kinds of activities do Community Friends do with AUAP students?

AUAP students spend most of their time on campus, either in class or in their residence hall interacting with other college-age students. One unique function of the Community Friends program is to introduce AUAP students to American home and family life. Often, this goal is best accomplished by a homemade meal and an evening spent in the home together. There is no need to plan special activities to entertain the students - just include them in the things you or your family do such as cooking dinner, playing games, bicycling, hiking, watching movies and just talking.  The AUAP students also look forward to sharing Japanese culture with their Community Friends, and hopefully time spent together will be a rewarding cultural exchange.

How much time should Community Friends spend with AUAP students?

Community Friends are asked to attend the initial Community Friends Gathering and to schedule a home visit at least once during the students’ five month stay in Bellingham. You may choose to volunteer in one or both groups per year. Community Friends are also invited to several AUAP events including Japan Night, the AUAP Holiday Party, the AUAP Picnic, and the Closing Ceremony and Reception.

How can I apply to be a Community Friend?

Your involvement is needed! If you would like to participate in the Community Friends program now or in the future, contact Robbie Oyama at 650-2129 or Your email or phone message should include answers to the following questions:

1.  What is your name and contact information (phone number, email address, and mailing address)?

2.  What interests or hobbies do you enjoy doing?

3.  What students would you prefer to be matched with? Male, female, or no preference?

4.  Do you have any children? Please include gender and age.

5.  For First Time Community Friends: Who referred you to our program? Additionally, please provide the name and contact information of two references.