Community Sponsor Program Overview

The International Student Management Office (ISMO) manages a sponsor program designed to offer support and assistance to International Fellows (IFs) studying at the National Defense University (NDU). These officers are either attending the National War College (NWC), the Eisenhower School (ES), the College of International Security Affairs (CISA), or the College of Information and Cyberspace (CIC) in Washington, D.C., or the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) in Norfolk, Virginia. 

Sponsors have the opportunity to establish a meaningful relationship with an International Fellow in such a way that both parties benefit from this unique international interaction. Being a sponsor can be a very rich and rewarding experience and the relationship that you develop with your Fellow can last a lifetime.

A sponsor can provide valuable community and support to International Fellows and their families as they transition to a new country and spend a year at NDU. To learn more about the Sponsorship Program, you can explore the following links to see what exactly a sponsor does, and what we expect from all of our sponsors. If you already know all about the program, and are looking to sign up, skip to the Apply Now link!

Apply Now 

This program has proven to be of great benefit for the Fellows and families to experience the American culture and has led to lasting relationships. If you are ready for a new and interesting experience this year, do not miss this opportunity! Training and materials for new sponsors will be provided by ISMO.

Please contact ISMO at (202) 685-4240, or via e-mail at if you have any questions.


What is a Community Sponsor?

Most people who haven't sponsored before don't really know what participating in this program entails. The biggest misconception that comes from the name of the program, is that Sponsors will have to provide the officer with a place to live, or some type of large monetary commitment. This is not the case!

The International Student Management Office deals with the nitty-gritty of securing housing for the officers, and all of the officers receive a per diem payment from our office or their own Governments. They do not need housing, and they don't need money!

What Fellows need is Sponsor time, guidance, and friendship.

A Sponsor serves as a logistical guide for an international officer who may be in the U.S. for the first time, and sometimes brings their spouse and their children. The officers frequently land in the U.S. on a Saturday and are in class at NDU on Monday. The officers and their families can get very overwhelmed. It's important for our Sponsors to understand that the first month of Sponsorship is when the officer will need the most logistical support, and should be sure to be readily available. Some examples of logistical help include:

  • Advising the Fellow and their family regarding safety, American customs and traditions to include tipping/showing gratitude and use of American slang, idioms, and figures of speech
  • Advising the Fellow on transition items upon their arrival. Although ISMO will provide assistance in most transition items such as banking, schools, housing, and medical, the Sponsor may assist in follow up.
  • Providing ideas or advice about major purchases, travel, entertainment, and places of interest. 
  • Helping the Fellow and family with local shopping options close to their housing and throughout the Washington metropolitan area.

Though logistical support will continue to be necessary throughout the year, as time goes on your role will shift from logistical assistance to cultural guide. One of the real benefits of the Community Sponsorship Program is to show the officer the American way of life through participating in home and community activities together. Some of these activities that have been joined by both IFs and Sponsors include:

  • Extending invitations into American homes for traditional American holidays such as Thanksgiving
  • Attending local sporting or cultural events that may be unfamiliar to the Fellow and family
  • Dining at an ethnic restaurant to experience the officers cuisine, so the cultural exchange goes both ways

Throughout the year of Sponsorship, your role will be more of the cultural guide than logistical support. We ask that all of our Sponsors take their role as a fireside diplomat seriously. 

Expectations of a Community Sponsor 

All of our Sponsors are volunteers. They are not compensated and are participating in the program solely because they believe in it. However, we have certain expectations for ALL of our volunteers.

The most important expectation of our Community Sponsors is that they have the time and the ability to meet with the officer they are sponsoring, in-person, at least once a month. We expect our Sponsors to be pro-active in reaching out to the officer they are sponsoring. If they turn down one invitation, that is not an excuse to stop reaching out. Of course, there will be a month or two where schedules simply cannot be deconflicted. That's ok. But the expectation is that the sponsor and officer will meet in person once a month.

We expect for our Sponsors to be capable to exchange ideas in a respectful manner. The officer may end up wanting to discuss hot-button issues such as religion and politics. That's completely ok! We want the officers to hear as many opinions on as many different topics as possible, to see the diversity of life and opinions in the U.S. However, especially with hot-button issues, it is important to be respectful, and be mindful of the fact that not everyone will agree with that opinion. We expect that you will let the officer know that your opinions do not reflect the opinions of the U.S. Government or the American people as a whole. Consider explaining dissenting opinions to the Fellow.

We expect that none of our Sponsors will abuse their relationship with the International Officer. None of our sponsors will engage in proselytizing. This program is a cultural exchange, not indoctrination. Our sponsors will not sell or rent property, vehicles, or make any monetary gain through this relationship. Sponsors who violate this expectation will be dismissed from the program.

It is important that our Sponsors are not taken advantage of as well. Know, that as a Sponsor, you should not be helping the Officer with their homework. If the Officer is having trouble with their coursework, they can work with their professor. If they need a paper edited, they should turn to NDU Library's Academic Writing Specialists. 

As a Sponsor, you are not the Officer's personal chauffeur or babysitter. If one day the spouse has a medical appointment while the Officer is at school, and you want to offer your help to take the spouse to the appointment, that is fine! If you want to babysit the Officer's child once or twice, that's fine! But you should not feel obligated in any way, shape, or form to do so. That is not your role as a Sponsor.

Do not give the Officer a loan. If the Officer is struggling financially, they should come to the International Student Management Office to discuss their options.

We understand that a year can be a long time. If at any point during the year, your circumstances change and you find that you no longer have the time or energy to continue sponsoring, we expect you to reach out to the Sponsor Program Manager as soon as possible. We want to ensure that any officer who wants a Sponsor, has one. We will make arrangements to find a new Sponsor for the officer if need be.



DC United Game

Thanksgiving Photo


"The most impressive thing about the sponsorship program is the selflessness seen in the volunteers. They have incredible spirit."
- Fellow, Class of 2016

"For me, the sponsor program is an opportunity to build a bridge of understanding with someone from another culture. I learn from them and they learn from us."
- Sponsor of 7 years