Hosting creates a lifetime
friendship with another person, and often with another family
in a different part of the world. Hosts also benefit from friendships with people
who have an international perspective and by participating in AFS activities with them.
AFS families live on farms, in small towns, in
suburbs and in city apartments. They are of all races and
nationalities. They are people who are willing to take time to
share with a new son or daughter.
Here are a few stories from families who have hosted in the Carolinas recently.
Dwaine and Nancy, Taylorsville, North
first yearlong hosting experience was 1992-1993 and our daughter
was Mayuko from Japan. These were the days when AFS
would make your selection for you and simply send you an assignment
IF you so desired. We didn't have specific preferences, and
AFS did their magic.
Mayu arrived with very limited English
skills, but a good dictionary, lots of hand signals, and even
drawing a few pictures made things work. The year wasn't all
rosy with an eighth grade boy who liked to "pick" and a
new daughter who knew nothing of the competitive nature of boys.
We survived Elmer's glue in Mayu's favorite shoes from her aunt in
Italy, and the revenge of the Elmer's glue in Jonathan's prized jar
of pennies which he had saved over several years. Now it is
funny, but it wasn't funny then.
Mayu's limited English
pushed her into Chorus, Visual Arts, Drama, and Dance during her
first semester. Little did we know at the time, but Mayu was
searching for herself. We discovered two years later that
Mayu arrived from Tokyo with her educational track defined as
business, and as a result she only took courses which meshed with
this track - all the way back to her junior high school years.
Mayu's year with us was filled with hours at our untuned piano
creating songs for her own enjoyment. She even wrote a
beautiful thank you song for the school which was presented at the
Senior Assembly at the end of school. Mayu's opportunity to
explore new horizons caused her to return home to Japan, extend her
high school education by two years to convert her focus to the
arts. She wrote that her family was very concerned, but they
also knew how happy she was. She expressed her gratitude to
AFS and to Alexander Central for helping her "find herself."
Mayu has completed her university degree and today she is the
morning personality on FM Tokyo - the largest morning market in all
of Japan. Her AFS experience provided her the chance to
explore, to learn, but most importantly, to become the person she
was meant to be!
We're thrilled to have been a part of this
journey. Our AFS children continue to bring us joy and
Fred & Julie, Raleigh, North
We've been lucky enough
to host two students for a full year, and each was the exact
opposite of the other.
Niclas was from a
fairly wealthy family in Stockholm, and had been to America on
vacations. He constantly informed us the
way we did things in America was stupid, and in Sweden they did
things right. It was frustrating at times, but we kept
repeating the AFS mantra: 'It's not right, it's
not wrong, it's just different.' In early
spring we started seeing changes: eventually he'd say,
'That's different,' instead of more derogatory
remarks. At first he'd keep comments to himself,
but then he began asking questions, and eventually talking about
why things were different. By the time he went home, he could
see things from both points of view, and was defending those same
ideas he felt were stupid when he arrived. He had also
finally let down his guard, and could relax and laugh at himself.
We were very glad we had the experience of watching the rapid
growth in Nicas, and considered the year a success.
a year off, we chose to host Natalie from Western Ukraine.
She arrived on a government scholarship and was ready for
anything. Her first trip to the grocery store was like taking
a child to the circus. She took pictures of a pre-made cake,
the wine isle, and a full grocery cart. She loved to taste
new things, but her favorite foods became gyros, and Bryer's ice
cream and yogurt. We loved her borscht, and on January 7,
Natalie's Christmas Eve, she and another Ukrainian AFS
student created a traditional Christmas Eve dinner for the two host
found that there was more than one way to look at
things, Natalie's eyes had been opened completely. We still miss
both students, but Natalie became part of the family. Sending
Natalie home felt like sending our own child off. She
has found computer access though, and sends e-mails.
We've now moved
to a very rural community. We temporarily hosted two
students, who informed us that our quiet lifestyle is boring, so
our days of hosting full year students are probably over. My
husband and I stay active as volunteers, so that we can still watch
the changes in the students as the year progresses. We have
come to know students from many countries, and hope to continue
helping make their stay a positive experience.<
Mark & Sarah, Raleigh, North Carolina
It is hard to talk
about our hosting experience without getting teary-eyed. It brought
into our family the most wonderful young woman from Italy (and her
family as well) with whom we will always stay in touch. Hardly
a week goes by that I don't
think about her and miss her, even now, one year after she has gone
home (though being able to communicate via the internet helps to
keep us in close touch). We visited her and her parents this summer
and she toured around with us for a week; it reconfirmed to me how
permanent our relationship has become. I now think of her as my
first few months of Georgina's stay were not always easy.
Especially in the beginning it felt a little like being on a
reality TV show ' as if someone was always watching. But it
wasn't long before we could talk openly and laugh about our
differences and soon she was just another member of the family. She
made friends easily among her fellow students (though she became
closest to the other exchange students) and we helped her navigate
what was the sometimes frustrating world of an American high school
(and its teachers'). We kept the lines of communication open
to prevent small problems from
festering and becoming bigger ones. It became clear early on that
she was used to a lot of freedom back home (going to discos from
midnight to six am was apparently a weekly occurrence) so we had to
be willing to loosen her 'leash' a little. She
understood that we had a responsibility to her parents to keep her
safe, but we understood that she was a mature young woman who could
take care of herself.
only disappointment was the lack of bonding between Georgina and
our then 14 year-old daughter (our son was away at college). In
retrospect, I think that hosting might work better when one's
own children are younger and more open and accepting. But Rachel
will likely visit Georgina soon and I have a feeling that over time
their relationship will become much closer.
can honestly say there is nothing I have done before or since that
was as personally gratifying and fulfilling as hosting a foreign
exchange student. We feel very lucky to have had Georgina come into
Jeanette, Mt. Olive, North Carolina
just wanted to say "thanks" from our family to all at
AFS. The experience with Frankie from Hong Kong has been wonderful. I
knew the time would come for her to leave but wasn't prepared for
the heartbreak for our entire family-me, my husband, our 3 girls,
the grandmas, aunts, uncles, cousins. We have a very close
family and Frankie has become intertwined in that family. We
feel like we have lost one of our own and there have been many
tears shed over this past weekend. Frankie touched our
family, our church family and our community in a very special and
unexpected way. It took us a few weeks to adjust to her being
in our lives but will take much more to adjust to the loss we feel
with her departure. About 3 years ago I went through a time
when I wanted to adopt a child. I had a feeling there was a
child out there that needed us. I spent weeks researching
foreign adoptions, the costs, procedures, etc. My oldest
daughter, Meredith, also felt a strong sense that it was something
we were meant to do. For various reasons, we did not end up
pursuing adoption. Last fall when Meredith came to me and
asked if Frankie could come live with us because her host family
was not working out, I had the same feeling that this was someone
who needed us. Looking back over the last nine months, I realize
this was the child that would need us and with whom we could make a
difference. What I didn't count on was how much difference
she would make in our lives. Again, thank you for your part in
making this experience possible and for bringing this new daughter
into our lives. We could not love her any more were she born
to us or adopted by us.
Rick & Liesl, Raleigh, North Carolina
picked up Ines, from Germany, in August after her initial housing
situation didn't work out. It took a bit of time, but within a few
days she was warming up to us as a visitor -- and we to her! Within
about 2 weeks she was part of the family.
through this did wonderful things for everyone involved. For my
younger children it opened their eyes to a larger world where the
US isn't the center of the universe, where people have different
priorities and customs. They began to make plans for how they would
visit Germany when they were older, and possibly even participate
in a foreign exchange program themselves!
my older children the experience was more profound, I think. They
began to see their world and the context of how our culture works
in the world through the eyes of a different culture. Perspectives
began to broaden. The impact of our behavior began to take
different levels based on the inputs of another country, another
it was a fantastic experience! Our AFS student will be a part of
our lives forever: lives that are richer, more multi-dimensional,
fuller and happier for the experience.