Bring the world to your home, host an international exchange student

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The Mennie host family with Adham, an Italian exchange student, on a trip to Montana. (Photo courtesy AFS)

Becoming a host family with AFS-USA was a life changing experience for two families in the Puget Sound region. Discover the students in need of host families this year and what it could look like for you!

Twenty years after a life-changing experience doing the Peace Corps in Yemen, Jim Piper of Shoreline decided to come full circle and host a Yemeni exchange student.

“Hosting a high school student seemed like a good way to help out a young person and a good way to let (my community) in Seattle meet someone from Yemen,” Jim said.

“I feel this is the best way to help dispel some of the stereotypes, misconceptions, and fear that I have seen people here have regarding Yemen, Islam, and the Middle East.”

Jim Piper and Mohammad, right, an exchange student from Yemin. (Photo courtesy of AFS)
Jim Piper and Mohammad, right, an exchange student from Yemen. (Photo courtesy of AFS)

When 16-year old Mohammed arrived for his year at Shoreline High School, he was surprised to find that Jim had lived in his home country. Jim also enjoyed being re-exposed to Yemeni culture and sharing it with his school-age son.

“I was genuinely surprised to learn that Mohammed and his friends in Yemen listen to some of the same music that my son and his teenage friends listen to here in the U.S. like Dubstep and Skrillex,” Jim said.

Kay Mennie of Federal Way (pictured at top with her family and host student) came to hosting in a different way.  During a trip to Montana in 2010, Kay’s sister, a recent host parent, convinced her sister that they should both host an exchange student for the coming year as a way to expand their family.

They were in daily contact with AFSUSA as they went through the application process, chose their students and began communicating with them before their arrival. Once Adham, an Italian student with Egyptian heritage, arrived, he immediately became part of the family.

“We had decided early on that we would spend ‘family time’ together just as our family has always done,” Kay said. “Through our shared experience these bright, interesting, young people have enjoyed each other’s company, learned from one another, laughed together, and even had a debate or two…yes, just like families do.”

For Kay, hosting meant growing her family’s connections across the globe.

Here are some of the students currently awaiting host families for August:

Olfa, 17, of Tunisia, is humorous, charismatic, and a strong leader. Her family describes her as funny and bubbly. She enjoys reading and prefers it to watching television, as books inspire her and show that life can be limitless. Olfa plays guitar and hopes to learn the drums. She also enjoys sports, especially basketball and soccer. Olfa is coming to the U.S. on a prestigious full scholarship called YES Abroad and has been accepted for enrollment at University Prep in Seattle.

Gideon, 16, of Austria, likes working out, biking and snowboarding. He is a member of a Jewish youth group associated with the Kibbutz movement. He especially enjoys their nature camps. He is interested in politics, economics, philosophy, and the arts. Gideon is social, outgoing, and creative. His parents are both journalists educated in American universities. Gideon has dyslexia but manages his disability and tests well on English skills. He cannot live with indoor cats. Gideon is currently slated to attend Garfield High School but this may be flexible for the right family

Natacha, 16 of Thailand, likes to be called “Kim” and is an open-minded, adaptable, and curious young woman. She has a great relationship with her family who often go shopping, travel, and watch movies together. In her spare time she enjoys designing fashion, cooking, and reading. She would like to learn how to ski one day in the United States. She is the head of her class in school and also a member of the student council. Furthermore, she is the leader of the English club. Kim hopes to learn about different cultures during her stay, while become more independent, acquire better social skills, and grow as a person.  Kim comes from a Buddhist family and is ready to explore a new culture and language.

What does it look like to host an exchange student?

AFS Families are paid not with money but with everlasting memories. We ask them to provide a bed (shared room with same-sex sibling ok), three meals a day and arrange transportation to and from school.

Students come fully insured with spending money and are expected to contribute as a member of the household. A volunteer ‘liaison’ in the community meets with the student and family once a month to provide support, and students must attend four orientations during the course of their year.

Although we are currently on the search for host families, there are opportunities to go abroad too! Check out these stories of Puget Sound students who have gone abroad with AFS and check out our programs to learn more.

About AFS Intercultural Programs

For over 60 years AFS Intercultural Programs (formerly the American Field Service) has been facilitating international exchange for high school students in communities in 50 countries. We are a non-profit volunteer-driven organization with 100 active volunteers in the Puget Sound alone.

Each year our chapter hosts 58 international students from around the globe here in the Puget Sound, and sends 25 American students abroad. As we prepare for the coming school year, we are seeking families who are willing to host exchange students for 3-10 months for the 2013-2014 school year.

Learn more about becoming a host family today.


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