Today, we’re talking to Era Schrepfer, Executive Director of FIUTS (Foundation for International Understanding Through Students), about her work advancing international understanding and building community. FIUTS connects international students and scholars with local host families, giving both guests and hosts an opportunity to build new relationships, celebrate their differences and learn from one another.
Tell us about your work — your job and/or any volunteer work.
I am the Executive Director at FIUTS (Foundation for International Understanding Through Students). Our work advances international understanding through cross cultural leadership experiences, and by connecting international students and scholars with local people as citizen diplomats. I’ve been in my role for more than 15 years, so I’m lucky to have friends in every corner of the world. I love watching young people find their passion and life’s work—so many of our alumni are making a difference in their professions and communities.
I also sit on the board of Joyas Mestizas, a youth dance group that performs Mexican Folklorico dance. It’s an all-volunteer organization that does amazing work teaching kids about the culture and traditions of Mexico. Both of my children are dancers in the group.
What’s your favorite Seattle memory?
I grew up in the Delridge neighborhood near White Center, and I remember taking the bus with my family to go to Seattle Mariners games in the Kingdome. I guess that’s a good indicator of how old I am!
Pick a favorite local outdoor experience. What is it? What’re we doing? Who’s going with ya?
It’s definitely a picnic at a local park—probably Seahurst Park in Burien or Lincoln Park. Somewhere near the water. It’s just our family and the dog sitting on a blanket, and we’ll pack snacks from home or pick up elote from the little stand in White Center or chicken from Ezell’s. I’ll bring a book but probably won’t get a chance to read it.
What’s your favorite local Instagram or TikTok account and why?
I’m not very active on either, but I do love food and local restaurants, so accounts like @hungerdontlai are fun to follow.
If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?
What’s a project you’re working on (big or small) and how can our readers help you with it?
We’re going through a big transition at FIUTS, moving to our first off-campus space after 74 years of being hosted at UW. Like all change, it’s stressful, but also exciting to think about opportunities to expand our work in new ways. We’re also starting to plan for FIUTS’ 75th anniversary celebration in 2023.
The best way to help is to join us! Consider attending an event like this month’s Blue Marble Bash or get involved as a volunteer to host a new international student for their first week in Seattle, or even just for dinner.
What are you looking forward to this year?
This summer, as we return to in-person exchanges, we’ll be hosting groups of young people from all around the globe. We’re excited for a return to traveling—there’s no replacement for seeing new places and welcoming new friends to our beautiful city.