AFS prepares for arrival of exchange students in Pittsburgh

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As local high school students dread the end of summer and the ominous “first day of school,” over 2,000 AFS exchange students are anxiously pre­paring for the year of a lifetime. Students from over 50 countries, including Germany, Thailand and Turkey, will arrive throughout August to spend a year attending high schools in the U.S. and living with American host families. Pittsburgh high schools expecting AFS students this year include Fox Chapel, Keystone Oaks, Pittsburgh Obama, Taylor Allderdice, Mt. Lebanon, Plum Senior, Avonworth, Pittsburgh CAPA and St. Clairsville.

Opportunities to host AFS students are still available in the Pittsburgh area and nationwide. AFS requires an online application, background check and personal interview. Hosting a student provides an occasion to share American culture with an eager student and learn about his or her country at the same time. Many hosts remain in contact with their students for a lifetime and feel that their world expands greatly through this unique learning opportunity.

“Our decision to host wasn’t exactly the long thought-out process I had imagined it would be. We were contacted by a friend in July of last year who let us know that the economic downturn was profoundly affecting these foreign teenagers who dreamed of coming to the U.S. After we looked through the photos and brief descriptions of the students, I was smitten. It didn’t take long for my family to be willing to try this “experiment.” It turns out that hosting fits our family values of supporting peace and sharing knowledge; and we learned about Denmark, Dansk (the language), Danish food, and Danish culture from a resident expert,” said 2009-2010 AFS host mom Julie Allen about her family’s experience of hosting Kristine from Denmark. “And yes, we are planning to host again this year. We are looking forward to a year of learning about Italy with our newest family member Katherine,” Allen added.

AFS (formerly the American Field Service) has worked for over 60 years to build bridges of cross cultural understanding and contribute to a more just and peaceful world.

(To start the process of being matched with your new exchange student, call AFS at 1-800-876-2377, e-mail hosting@afs.org or visit AFS on the Web to complete an interest form: http://www.afsusa.org/hostfamily.)

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