Stories from International Friends Program

Author name
Ling Jin


Lila Edwards is an Emergency Communications/Records Officer at the Duke University Police Department, where she has worked for approximately 12 years. She grew up in Copiague, NY and joined the Duke family for stable employment and Duke’s wonderful Family Health Benefit Packages. Lila participated in the International Friends Program in Spring 2020 and was paired with a visiting scholar from South Korea.

How did you find out about the International Friends Program and why did you decide to participate in the program?

I found out about the International Friends Program through an email from the International House. I am on their mailing list for events. I joined because I want to know more about the cultures that make up our Duke Community and I thought this would be a great way to do it!

What was your first meeting like?

The first meeting was exciting! I was looking forward to meeting my friend match. I walked into the International House and was greeted by staff. I was told to fill out a name tag and grab some pizza, they were ready to start! I walked into the room and introduced myself to my friend match. We said a quick hello and there was a welcome and briefing about the program by our host Ling Jin.  We played a couple of games to break the ice. It was a lot of fun and my friend match was my partner. There was not a lot of time for conversation at first. I think we both wondered about each other’s backgrounds and cultures, so I think the conversation flowed pretty easily. My new friend match had a lot of questions, and me, I love to talk! J

What has been your favorite activity you’ve done together? Where did you go and what did you do?

Well, we only had gotten to meet once, face to face, before Covid – 19 restrictions. It was at a lake, she and her husband met me and we had a wonderful 45 min or so, walk around the lake. It was a beautiful brisk, but very sunny day, perfect for walking! Our walk was full of questions, sharing, laughter and wonder. After the walk we went to the Dulce Cafe, which was very close by. We enjoyed coffee and chai tea. We talked for about a half hour or so and really enjoyed our time together.

What has been your favorite conversation the two of you had? What did you talk about and what made it so memorable?

This is really hard for me to answer because I really enjoyed all of our conversations. We talked about everything that came to our minds. I told her she could ask me anything and I would try my best to answer. I guess it really worked out so well, because we both came into the program with such open minds and willingness to learn about someone else and their culture.

What interesting things have you discovered or learned about your IFP partner?

I really think her culture is so different it was just fascinating to learn about. One of the things I asked her was did she play sports or an instrument as a teen and what was her favorite thing to do with her family at that age? The answer blew my mind! She said she did not play a sport, instrument or do a lot with her family at that age due to her focus on her studies at school. In fact one year in High School, her days were from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at night!!!! I let her know that I went to school from 7:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., an incredible difference!

What have the two of you bonded over?

I think we bonded over just enjoying our time together, laughing and comparing our lives and cultures. It is a lot of fun!

What have you learned about your IFP partner’s country or culture?

Through getting to know her, I found her culture to be very genuine, polite, respectful, studious and smart because they work hard at it. One fun thing she shared was, in South Korean Stand-Up Comedians are few. In her culture they are not as famously know as in our culture. In the USA she found Stand-Up Comedians are very popular, even famous. For someone to stand in front of a crowd and just speak their mind about anything they find funny to make the crowd laugh is fascinating to her. It is one of her favorite things about our culture.

What pieces of advice do you have for others to make an IFP partnership successful?

Look forward to sharing and being open, asking questions and learning. If you do that, I believe you are guaranteed to have success in making a New International Friend!

Do you plan on keeping in touch with your IFP partner after this semester’s program ends?

 I do plan on keeping in touch with my new friend, in fact, I asked to have her as next semester’s International Friend. Unfortunately, she leaves for South Korea in August to go back home. Her studies here will be done. I will miss her, but because of Covid-19 we have learned to have a friendship on-line! We can keep in touch and still be friends. Before my new friend leaves, I would love to take her fishing with my family, maybe off of a pier or the beach. She has never been fishing and I grew up fishing. I also raised my children fishing and crabbing. My new friend has never been fishing and we are very excited about the idea. We hope to do it before she leaves. I would also love to take her canoeing, kayaking, or maybe water river rafting. That way we could be in the same boat! I would love to share an experience like that with her and her husband, before they go back home.

Do you have any other fun stories or additional details you’d like to share about your participation in the IFP program?

Just that I would love to do it again. It has been a rich and rewarding experience. The reason why I did it is because I want to learn our Community at Duke. I truly enjoy learning about others cultures this way. It enables you to serve the Duke Community better, because it helps you to not only understand the people and their culture better, but you also learn their communication style which may or may not be different than your own. They get to know your culture and you too! Besides, I would have never met my special friend Eunji, on this level if it were not for this program. Thank you!