For many of these students, it will be the first time they’ve set foot on America’s shores. When they arrive they’ll be greeted by representatives of AFS, then taken to an orientation facilitated by AFS Volunteers. Volunteers ensure students are supported locally as they immerse themselves into American school, culture and society. After orientation, students’ host families meet their new “son” or “daughter”
Brenda and Joe Bomblosky from Bedford, a small town in the Appalachian region of Pennsylvania, hosted their first exchange student last year. Brenda recalls arriving to pick up Nick, a 16 year old boy from Russia, on that first day: “All of the students were so excited but terribly nervous. It’s such a brave thing for these kids to travel across the world to a place so far away. They’re leaving everything they know behind to embark on this incredible adventure. When I met Nick, we immediately hit it off. It wasn’t long before we felt like he was part of the family.”
These high achieving students have the opportunity to experience what it’s like to live as a member of a family, school, and community in America. Likewise, American families hosting foreign exchange students learn about a new culture, gain a different perspective on their own, and often form lifelong friendships with the students they’ve hosted. In a very real sense, those who volunteer to host a foreign exchange student become ambassadors across their kitchen tables.
Families of all kinds are encouraged to contact AFS to learn more about how to host a foreign exchange student. There are still opportunities to host students arriving in mid-August. While many families opt to host for a year, it is possible to host for a few weeks or a semester. For more information, visit www.afsusa.org or call 1-800-876-2377 to speak with a regional AFS representative.