Hello lovelies! I have missed writing for you all so terribly. I still miss India a lot, and am so grateful to have social media to connect me with friends and family on the other side of the world, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Today, I am thrilled to announce that my family is about to start a new, travel-related chapter in our lives! Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually involve exploring far-away places. It’s exciting nonetheless!
Each year, AFS-USA hosts over 2000 international students here in the U.S. This requires over 2000 host families. For some reason, many Americans aren’t particularly inclined to welcome exchange students into their homes and this causes lots of problems. Because students aren’t permitted to leave their home country without a confirmed placement (permanent or temporary) in the U.S, AFS created Welcome Families. These are families who agree to host a student short-term until a permanent placement is found and this year, they asked us to help out!
About a week ago, I received an email from AFS asking us to be a host family for Leonie from Austria. It gave us a short bio for her and explained what the commitment would be and the importance of Welcome Families. My parents and I discussed it and agreed it was worthwhile to look into the possibility, so I replied saying we were interested and asked a few questions, such as where she’ll be attending school and how long we can expect to host her. However, these emails are automated, so by replying it was entered into the system as a commitment to host. Oops. Though initially a bit shocking, we decided it was fate! In the second email we received, it said we would be hearing from our local representative shortly. This has not yet occurred, but it’s a crazy-busy time for AFS so we understand. It did say she’d be arriving early September, so if we don’t hear from them in the next few days we’ll reach out to our local chapter — we don’t want her to just show up on our porch one day!
In all honesty, we had no intention of hosting another AFS student this year. Last year with Mona was a wonderful experience and it’s sad not having that fifth energy in the house, but it’s also a huge responsibility for my parents which they didn’t feel ready to take on again. If AFS hadn’t reached out to us directly, and if it wasn’t just short-term, this wouldn’t be happening. Personally, I’m so glad it is. Mona will always be my sister (love you girlie) and I had a wonderful host sister in Gaurvi (hey dork), but I’ve fallen in love with the connections made between host families and students and want to experience it more. Even though she’ll only be with us short-term, she’ll be in town for a year and, with any luck, we’ll stay connected for the duration of her stay here and beyond. It’s magical how quickly someone can join your family and I can’t wait to extend mine even further.
I’ll definitely do a couple of blog posts while she’s here to share the experience with you all, as well as document it for myself! I’m also working on some exchange-related things at my school and in the community which I might share as well. Let me know if you’re interested in reading about that!
***NOTICE: IF I’VE ALREADY DRIVEN YOU CRAZY WITH HOSTING POSTS, STOP NOW. BUT IF YOU WANT TO HAVE AN AWESOME YEAR WITH INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCES, CONTINUE ON. (please continue on. it’s good stuff, I promise)***
Hosting is an experience that I cannot recommend enough. True, it has challenges and is a huge commitment, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and, to use AFS’s favorite word, life-changing. If you have any interest in hosting a student, please grab hold of that curiosity and run with it. All students have to have a family by August 31st (only two days away!) or else they can’t start their exchange. There are still 189 students worldwide anxiously awaiting news of where they’ll be living for the next 10 months, and YOU have the power to say, “Welcome home.” If you can’t commit to a full year (like us), be a Welcome Family! Even that short period of time can be transformative and it literally saves someone’s exchange year. I know most of you will read this, think “oh that’s lovely” and continue on with your lives. I’m encouraging you to take the leap. Jump feet-first into the unknown and experience the magic of international understanding. I realize I sound absurdly cheesy right now, but doesn’t everyone when they speak from the heart?
If you have any interest at all, you can visit http://www.afsusa.org/host-family to learn about hosting, read bios of students coming to your area, and start an application. According to the site, there are still 69 students in my area who need permanent placements. Also, I’m here! I would love to respond to any questions or concerns you may have — whether you’re considering hosting or not! As my friends and family know, I LOVE talking about exchange to the point of irritating everyone around me. So ask away! I would also love it if you would share this post, or the AFS link, with your friends and family so that they too can learn about this awesome opportunity, plus I wouldn’t mind having some new readers ;) Kidding, kidding. While it is terrifying, I highly, highly, highly encourage welcoming an exchange student into your life. If you don’t, you won’t know what you’re missing, but if you do, you’ll be so glad you didn’t miss it.
Sorry I’ve been flooding all of your social medias with hosting promos recently, but as you can tell it’s something I’m passionate about! My family and I are so excited to welcome Leonie into our lives (provided AFS ever emails us back…) and I can’t wait to share that experience with all of you. As school approaches, I’m looking forward to a year full of writing, new experiences, and fun, and I hope you are too! This blog will definitely be active, albeit sporadically, with posts related to hosting, volunteering, and what I’m planning for my future adventures. Thanks for reading and until next time, goodbye!