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 Carolina

    Our 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 happiness!  

  • Fred & Julie, Raleigh, North Carolina

    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.

    After 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 families.

    Where Niclas 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 third child.

    The 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.

    Our 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.

    I 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 our lives.

  • Jeanette, Mt. Olive, North Carolina

    I 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

    We 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.

    Going 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!

    For 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 world, really.

    Overall, 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.