This August over 2,400 students from around the world will travel to the United States to attend an American high school and live as part of an American family. Their decision to live abroad for the school year was not a hastily made one but rather a dream that was often many years in the making.
The United States remains the most preferred destination for those from approximately 90 countries who wish to travel abroad. This experience provides both the student and the host family with a life-long relationship and a better understanding of other’s culture.
For those students wishing to travel to the United States, most look forward to improving their English, experiencing life as an “American student”, and gaining a better understanding of a culture that remains envied around the world.
Barry VanNostrand volunteers as the Placement Coordinator for the Finger Lakes chapter of AFS – the oldest and largest non-profit exchange student organization in the world. In addition, he is the Director of School Safety for the Wayne Central School, where he also coordinates their Exchange Student program and is a Williamson Town Justice.
VanNostrand states AFS – Finger Lakes currently has 32 students from 18 different countries living here. One of these students, Daniela (Chile) resides with him and his wife Laurie and attends the Williamson Central School.
Additional AFS students in Wayne County include; Rebecca (Italy) attending Wayne Central School and residing with the Sheila Foery family, Lisa (Switzerland) attending Gananda Central School and residing with Jim and Melanie Frauel, and Antonio (Italy) attending Lyons Central School and residing with Jeff and Brenda Smith. For the schools, hosting is a near zero cost method to greatly enhance the global learning experience for their entire student body” said VanNostrand.
This fall, the VanNostrands will be hosting for their 7th year. They host from a different country each year to enjoy the cultural differences that each year brings.
“While the exchange students learn a lot while here the host family learns just as much and gain a family member in the process. There is rarely a week that goes by that we don’t hear from at least one of our past students and this year three of their previous students are returning to visit.
“While host families do need to pass a background check to host, they do not need to have children at home to qualify” said VanNostrand. “In fact about one third of host families are “empty-nesters”, or never had children, and are just looking for a way to give back to their community and promote a better global understanding.” Students bring their own spending money and medical insurance and host families are only expected to provide room, board and treat them as if they are a member of their own family while they are here.
Because AFS is so large, host families have a broad group of students to choose from. “With AFS, we don’t tell you who you will host” VanNostrand said, “But instead you make the decision which student you would like to host based upon their country of origin, gender, and common interests with your family. In addition, a local AFS volunteer is assigned to each family and is always available to support you and assist you in any way they can throughout your year.
AFS will continue to place students for the next several months. Anyone interested in getting more information about hosting, regardless of where they live, they may go to AFSUSA.org and a Finger Lakes volunteer will be in contact with you to answer your questions. “Hosting is a great way to expand your life and bring the world to you!” said VanNostrand.