May 11, 2015 - The story behind the AFS host family who won the AFS Reel Life Grand Prize.
February 4, 2015 - A 14 year-old New Jersey student beat out 500 teens across the country to win the Grand Prize in a highly competitive national essay contest.
January 22, 2015 - 65 schools across the country are being awarded for their commitment to fostering global competency among students.
December 5, 2014 - On International Volunteer Day, AFS-USA is especially grateful for the contributions of its 4,500 volunteers.
November 6, 2014: This Saturday, AFS Intercultural Programs, under the patronage of UNESCO, will host an international high–level symposium in Paris on intercultural education.
October 2, 2014 - An AFS alumni gathering in honor of the Centennial of the American Field Service brings together AFSers from multiple generations and nationalities.
September 11, 2014 - No matter how much you prepare for studying abroad, your first days in your new country will be filled with surprises.
August 14, 2014 - A scholarship set up in memory of two beloved AFS Volunteers is about to change one teen's life.
July 2, 2014 - AFS Exchange Students from around the world choose one word to describe their US host families.
June 26, 2014 - In his quest to restore a Model T Ford ambulance, one classic car lover discovers the inspiring story of the American Field Service and its spirit of volunteerism.
May 21, 2014 - Communities around the world are participating in a grassroots campaign to "Do One Thing" for World Day for Cultural Diversity.
April 29, 2014 - AFS-USA and the Greg Jennings Foundation are teaming up to provide summer study abroad scholarships to youth Minnesota and Wisconsin.
April 23, 2014 - Study abroad has received unprecedented media attention and acclaim in recent months. What are the reasons for this surge, and what does it mean?
April 17, 2014 - When you study abroad, you find a new home. Check out these host family houses worldwide to see how that new home might look.
April 10, 2014 - National Volunteer Week is a time for AFS-USA to celebrate and thank its 4,000+ volunteers nationwide.
April 2, 2014 - Overcoming the language barrier can seem daunting, but there are very good reasons not to stress about it before going abroad.
March 28, 2014 - AFS-USA Director of Educational Partnerships & School Outreach was among the esteemed visionaries speaking about globally-relevant education issues at T & L 2014.
March 7, 2014 - AFS-USA is dedicating the month of March to honoring host families and their tremendous contributions to the study abroad experience.
February 13, 2014 - AFS-USA remembers the US Presidents who were among its most valuable supporters and how they helped the organization grow.
February 3, 2014 - AFS-USA and NSHSS will work together to encourage cross-cultural understanding that supports student achievement in an increasingly globalized society.
February 5, 2014 - An AFS student in Spain dishes about the truly important aspects of her study abroad experience: family and food!
January 28, 2014 - 79 schools across the nation were selected to receive the distinguished "Top AFS School" award for their commitments to enhancing global education.
January 9, 2013 - The US ranked 29th out of 64 countries in the OECD's PISA survey of student performance. Could the Common Core State Standards be key to overcoming mediocrity?
December 31, 2013 - As we prepare to say goodbye to 2013, AFS-USA looks back on the events that had the biggest impact on the global education community this year.
December 11, 2013 | New York, NY - With innovative personal fundraising projects, AFS-USA Students have raised impressive amounts of money and grown personally in the process.
November 27, 2013 | New York, NY - In the spirit of Thanksgiving, AFS Returnees tell us what they appreciated most about their host families.
November 21, 2013 | New York, NY - A new research initiative has quantified the extent of international influence (and thus need for intercultural skills) throughout the U.S.
November 6, 2013 | New York, NY - AFS-USA's new short-term study abroad programs for groups help students explore the cultural background of their favorite past-times.
November 1, 2013 | New York, NY - Excitement builds as the AFS-USA community prepares for a week of celebrating cultural exchange and understanding.
October 10, 2013 | New York, NY - A new study reveals the true impact of environmental stimulation on intellectual development in kids and teens.
October 2, 2013 | New York, NY - AFS Student Norman, from South Africa, shares the song he wrote during his exchange year in the US and the personal story behind its creation.
September 24, 2013 | New York, NY - From Jan Eliasson, to Christine Lagarde, to Thembisa Mshaka, see which AFS Returnees are making a difference and how.
September 19, 2013 | New York, NY - Cultural Vistas & AFS-USA have announced their innovative new partnership, designed to strengthen the impact of exchange programs.
September 17, 2013 | New York, NY - Our exclusive interview with the author of the critically-acclaimed new book, "The Smartest Kids in the World (And How They Got That Way)."
September 5, 2013 | New York, NY - Students from Houston, Chicago, and Seattle have been awarded full study abroad scholarships to Brazil, China, Malaysia, South Africa or India.
August 28, 2013 | Milwaukee, WI - Two high school students were awarded Jennings/Omanhene AFS Faces of America study abroad scholarships through AFS Intercultural Programs/USA.
August 16, 2013 | New York, NY - AFS-USA and Ashoka’s Youth Venture (AYV) joined forces this week to train study abroad alumni in the art of teaching social entrepreneurship.
August 13, 2013 | New York, NY - An AFS-USA Program Advisor's early non-profit work demonstrates the potential of today's youth and the importance of international experience.
August 14, 2013 | New York, NY - In the hours before meeting their US host families for the very first time, 20 AFS exchange students from around the world sum up their feelings.
Welcome to all AFS exchange students who are arriving in the US this week for their year-long study abroad programs!
July 23, 2013 | New York, NY - AFS-USA high school students and volunteers experienced cultural immersion through community service in Panama.
July 18, 2013 | New York, NY - Ramadan's observance in the US offers a unique experience for both Muslims and non-Muslims.
July 15, 2013 | New York, NY - One mom in CA shares the lessons she's learned from being an AFS host parent.
June 27, 2013 | New York, NY - More than 2,000 exchange students left the US for their home countries this week, after successfully completing year and semester-long programs.
June 13, 2013 | New York, NY - As Father's Day nears, the heartwarming impact of one AFS-USA Host Dad comes to light.
May 29, 2013 | New York, NY - Host pets allow exchange students to learn about the values and beliefs espoused by their host families that underpin pet ownership.
May 22, 2013 | New York, NY- AFS Returnee, Thembisa Mshaka, a filmmaker and author who has provided creative services to Beyoncé and Jamie Foxx, tells how study abroad changed her.
May 13, 2013 | New York, NY - We recently sat down with AFS students Jan from Spain and Saechee from Japan to talk about their experiences living with US host families.
May 7, 2013 | New York, NY - Four AFS students served as the official welcome committee for President Obama when he arrived in Costa Rica on Friday, May 3rd.
April 23, 2013 -- Thanks to our AFS-USA Volunteers for generously sharing your talents, time, leadership, and commitment to and passion for intercultural learning.
April 15, 2013 -- We can now report that all hosted students in the team, their host families, and the families in the Mass Bay team who have students studying abroad are safe.
Welcome to the world of social media, President Clinton!
April 11,2013 -- AFS Intercultural Programs has been made aware of recent advertisements of fake employment opportunities bearing the AFS logo, and requesting a fee.
APRIL 6, 2013 -- "The most important thing is that I’m an ambassador for my country, and when I go back, I’ll be an ambassador for the U.S. – especially Shenandoah."
Former science and astronomy teacher Jerry Stueber passed away earlier this year, and an observatory at Muskego High School will get new life and a new life.
April 5, 2013 -- Sariah, 16, will visit the country of her dreams when she travels to Japan in August through an AFS-USA international exchange program.
March 27, 2013 -- Three foreign exchange students at Whitnall High School were part of a unique intercultural experience Sunday evening at Victory Missionary Baptist Church.
March 1, 2013 -- Woodbury families know no cultural bounds when it comes to opening their homes to students from across the world.
February 14, 2013 -- One Kenyon business man took it upon himself to make the students' stay here a happy one.
January 7, 2013 -- Fatima Noor is a 15-year-old exchange student attending Kirkwood High School, representing her country and experiencing her own "firsts" in America.
Pakistani Tahreem Hassan writes about her experience in California as a YES student.
Vanessa recently returned from an eight-month AFS-USA Faces of America study abroad trip to Thailand and shared with us stories from her travels.
December 11, 2012 -- The first annual AFS-USA Holiday Party brought together close to 100 members of the AFS-USA family, including two 2012 Faces of America Returnees.
December 11, 2012 -- AFS-USA is proud to join the worldwide community in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the YES Program starting December 12th.
December 7, 2012 -- Adee Pasha of Pakistan is the first ever YES Student of the Month, selected by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).
December 7, 2012 -- Derek Schulz, a teacher in Whitefish, MT, talks about his experience with AFS Exchange Student Muhammad Nadeem from Pakistan.
by Linda Hubbard Gulker on November 28, 2012
Gigi MacLeod talks about Global Literacy to at the Foreign Language Association of Northern ...
December 4, 2012 - AFS Exchange Students in Mattapoisett, MA reflect upon the cultural differences that make life in the US such a delight!
December 3, 2012 -- Muslim AFS students share experiences in Wisconsin through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program.
November 21, 2012 -- During International Education Week, 4 exchange students shared about their home countries and their first impressions of the US.
November 19, 2012 -- Watch our newest hosting video filmed in Turkey, which features two alumi of the YES Program. Discover why you should host a Turkish student!
November 12, 2012 -- International Education Week (IEW) is a time when we celebrate the benefits of international education and intercultural exchange throughout the world.
October 27, 2012 -- AFS returnee Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba receives the Community of Christ International Peace Award for his life’s work advocating for global nuclear disarmament.
October 19, 2012 -- AFS is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2012 Galatti Award.
October 9, 2012 -- John Minsker, of Granville, is retiring from involvement with the American Field Service, an international student exchange organization.
September 30, 2012 -- AFS returnee and NFL wide receiver are joining forces to provide study abroad scholarships to underserved youth.
September 18, 2012 -- FLEX student Yasya Kondrashova comments on life in San Antonio, TX for her school's student-produced news and feature publication.
September 14, 2012 -- Nancy Henderson of the Greater Puget Sound Team will be AFS-USA's 2012 Galatti Nominee.
September 13, 2012 -- AFS-USA joins the world in mourning the loss of Chris Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya and AFS Returnee
August 29, 2012 -- It was a busy year for Faces of America!
August 28, 2012 -- New York, NY – Meet Angie and Aaron, two of our Faces of America Returnees.
August 27, 2012 -- New York, NY – Faces of America participant, Riquel, says his study abroad experience, "lit a fire in me to explore as much of the world as I can."
August 25, 2012 -- New York, NY – Andy Garcia shares his experiences from Germany while participating on the AFS Green Summer School Program.
August 24, 2012 -- New York, NY – The extraordinary generosity of Mark Whitcraft and his family is making a difference in two key AFS-USA scholarship initiatives.
August 22, 2012 -- One host sister in NJ reflects on the ties formed with her AFS sister, 50 years later.
On August 4th, 2012 more than 60 members of the AFS-USA family gathered in Lititz Springs Park in Lititz, PA to celebrate the 2012 Speedwell Foundation Study Abroad Scholars.
August 17, 2012 -- New York, NY – AFS-USA is proud to welcome five new community based organizations to the Faces of America team in 2013.
August 16, 2012 -- New York, NY – On July 3, 2012, fifteen students embarked for Hamburg, Germany as part of AFS USA’s new Green Summer School Program.
August 16, 2012 -- New York, NY – From Ghana to Costa Rica to Russia, the 2012 AFS USA Faces of America Scholars are diving head first into a sea of new adventures.
Written by a Phoenix Country Day School student, this story shows the changes an AFS exchange student can make on their community and within themselves.
AUGUST 8, 2012 -- Watch our new heart-warming video featuring Nadeem, an exchange student from Pakistan who studied in Whitefish, Montana this past year.
AUGUST 7, 2012 -- The first foreign exchange student at Battle Ground High School in Oregon recounts her yearlong exchange and the effect its had on her life.
AUGUST 1, 2012 -- What hosting an exchange student can teach your young kids.
JULY 31, 2012 -- During her time at PCDS, Mona not only changed our community for the better with her fun spirit ... , but she was changed during her excursion to the United States
JULY 31, 2012 -- "Honey" Rind, a YES exchange student from Pakistan, describes her exchange experiences.
JULY 10, 2012 -- Three families recount memorable moments in the past year with the AFS students who spent this school year with them.
June 29, 2012 -- Julie Zurcher shares how hosting an AFS student from Thailand impacted her and her family for the better.
June 21, 2012 - HOUSTON – BP and global student exchange organization AFS launched the Gl...
JUNE 15, 2012 -- An essay from a Pakistani student hosted in Minnesota
JUNE 14, 2012 -- Open mindedness and being acceptable and adaptable brought me here in the U.S. from thousands of miles away. I love my host family.
March 31, 2011 -- Humanities teacher and AFS Volunteer Tina O’Donnell helps coordi...
By Cyd Haynes
America is a melting pot, so we enjoy the cultural richness of immigrants from many countries, but every year Woodbury hosts a number of students who aren’t here to stay—they’ve come to “exchange.” What do they exchange? Well…plenty. Three new mothers and daughters share their experience of exchanging traditions, customs, surprises and the joys of their everyday lives in newly-melded families.
Warning: Exchange programs have a long history of making fast friends of people who were absolute strangers in moments previous. Students are coached to call new family members ‘mom and dad.’ They are introduced as ‘sisters or brothers’ to their new siblings. Host families often become so fond of their foreign exchange students that they form lifelong friendships, even visiting the exchange student’s home country and family.
Many people promote the educational value of international youth exchange, but don’t let them fool you. If it weren’t for the close family ties that emerge amongst host families, filled with unparalleled personal interaction and genuine love, the cultural “sharing” would be empty. Read on and see what we mean.
Karina Asher had one daughter, now she has two.
In high school, Karina Asher was part of a “trading places” type exchange program. Her family hosted a student from Germany for six weeks during the time that she spent in Germany with the exchange student’s family. Her family also hosted a different German student for a more extended six months. Asher wanted her own children to have the same kind of enriching experience, so she and her husband Robert welcomed Joanna Przybyl into their home last fall.
Joanna hails from Poznan, Poland, a city with approximately the same population as Minneapolis and St. Paul together. She attends East Ridge High School (ERHS) along with the Asher’s daughter, Karly. “They [Karly and Joanna] hang out with Karly’s friends, watch movies, go to school and church activities,” says Karina.
The family has learned of some big differences between the South Washington County and Poznan school systems. Karina says that in Poland Joanna will sometimes bike to school, which takes her 40 minutes, “or she will take a bus to the subway then catch the train which still takes about 45 minutes.” Unlike in Woodbury, being late to class and behavior problems are also graded, and may affect a student’s chances of getting into a good high school.
Jen Aamodt had two daughters, now she has three.
Jen and Bill Aamodt have also realized some disparities in the schooling practices of their newest family member, Anna Ladegaard. “Anna did swimming in the fall and is now doing alpine skiing,” Jen says. “She is enjoying her ability to play sports for Woodbury High School (WHS) which is not something that is available in Denmark.”
Anna is getting a lot of opportunities that Jen herself never had, having nursed an unfulfilled desire to be an exchange student herself. A friend of Jen’s shared the one comment that convinced the family to be host: “There is no good time to bring a stranger into your home, so you just have to do it.”
The Aamodt girls, Maggie, 15, and older sister Pauline, 17, face new ideas due of Anna’s presence. For instance, in Europe it is normal to wear the same clothes for two or three days in a row. “So Anna adjusted to our culture and wears different clothes each day to school,” says Jen.
And it’s not just physical customs that vary; communication styles can also be rooted in a culture. “Anna likes to discuss things strongly,” Jen says, “often asking ‘why’ about things that we just wouldn’t discuss to that level.” During exchange preparations Anna had been told not to question everything, but she finds this part of her culture harder to drop than other parts.
The Aamodts don’t mind Anna’s questioning nature. The girls get along well and since the day the family picked Anna up at the airport, daughter Maggie has followed in Jen’s footsteps, hoping to go to Finland as an exchange student.
Amy Pflieger had three kids, now she has four.
After their eldest son left for college, Amy and Paul Pflieger had an available bedroom and decided to host Louise Nordback, an exchange student from Sweden, through American Field Services. “My parents hosted exchange students from this same program when I was in high school,” Amy says. “We have remained friends with those students and still get together for vacations.”
Amy gained exchange siblings and now her children remaining at home, Kelsey and Mason, have enjoyed having a new person around the house. “Louise makes really yummy cinnamon rolls,” they say.
The new student scores well at school as well. Her English teacher at ERHS has commented that Louise does better than half of her American English-speaking students. She is also involved in both competition cheer and sideline cheer leading.
The Pflieger’s newest daughter bolsters Amy’s heartfelt recommendation, backed by years of experience, “If you have an extra room in your home and you live near a high school, give these exchange students an opportunity to study and learn here. It will most likely be a win-win situation for everyone.”
Sarah Burns had two sons, now she has a daughter, too.
Hosting an exchange student was quite the unexpected move for Sarah and Dan Burns. Their sons Henry, 12, and Oscar, 10, deal with food allergies, so the Burns were asked to recommend families they knew who understood allergies and might consider hosting an exchange student living with allergies.
“When I read the application I got chills from head to toe,” says Sarah. “Everything Natalie was interested in was something our family was interested in…tennis, skiing, track and field, photography, the great outdoors, and even speaking German and Spanish. It was like God tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Look what you are going to do next year.’” Dan felt the same, and Natalie Curdova started making travel plans at home in the Czech Republic.
Natalie has a younger brother at home, so she was quick to understand and relate to her new American brothers. “Natalie and Henry listen to music on Natalie's iPod—she puts one earbud in her ear and he has the other in his,” Sarah says. “Natalie and Oscar share a love of movies and the two of them can talk movies like no two other people I know.”
For Sarah, it’s like having “a best friend and a favorite sister all in one.” And Dan has taken Natalie to father-daughter activates as well as reveled in having a tennis partner. They are both enjoying the experience of having a girl in the family.
Oscar has made his feelings clear as well, "Natalie isn't just any exchange student. She's my sister."
The U.S. had one exchange student, now they have many.
After World War II, student exchanges became popular as a way to increase understanding and tolerance of other cultures. They also served to improve language skills and broaden the social horizons of those who ventured.
Foreign students who arrive in Woodbury these days are met by support from families, volunteers and school staff. Julie Young, international exchange student coordinator at ERHS, guides foreign students in making presentations to local students and they find “the kids are very engaged and want to know about pop culture, driving and drinking laws, school and teen life in general in different countries,” she says.
“Kids learn from kids that there is no ‘right’ way to do things, just different ways,” Young says. “Exposure to other cultures is a step towards global understanding, tolerance and peace.”
The New Daughters
Natalie Curdova , Czech Republic
What has been the most surprising thing you've encountered so far?
I have never slept with a pillow that is also a pet…a pillow-pet it’s called. We never eat in the car in the Czech Republic, either, and we did that a lot on our trip while we were driving between parks. We ate cinnamon chex in cups for breakfast and one night we even had Chinese food.
What is your school (ERHS) like?
It is totally different than I imagined it to be. At first I was overwhelmed at the size. My school in the Czech Republic is smaller. There are just 150 kids in my grade and 800 in my school which has 8 grades. East Ridge is really modern.
Anything else about being an exchange student in Minnesota?
Minneapolis is a great city. I just love the skyscrapers. You have so many lakes and boating on them is really fun. The University of MN football games are very exciting. I like the outdoor stadium; we don't have that in the Czech Republic.
Joanna Przybył, Poland
What surprises you here?
I was surprised that people drive their car everywhere. Even if they want to get somewhere, where walking would take five minutes they go there by car.
What is your school (ERHS) like?
It is awesome, that students here can choose their classes. In Polish high school you can only decide what kind of classes you would like to study on advanced level.
Anything interesting about being an exchange student in Minnesota?
When I applied for this program, I hoped for placement in any state where it is warm for the whole year. My brother was laughing at me saying that I will go to Alaska. When I got information that my host family lives in Minnesota he was laughing even harder and said; “See, I told you! Maybe it is not Alaska, but it is almost the same!" At the beginning I was terrified but now I am glad I am here.
Louise Nordback, Sweden
What is your school (ERHS) like?
Big! I really like how all the sports and clubs are connected to school. In Sweden we only have private clubs.
What are you interested in studying as you get older?
I am thinking about doing something technical, like industrial design and product development. But I am not sure. I change my mind every day.
What has been the most surprising thing you've encountered so far?
In Sweden I take the bus or tram everywhere, because we are not allowed to drive till we are 18. It feels weird having to ask someone to drive you every time you are going somewhere.
Anna Ladegaard, Denmark
Why did you want to become an exchange student?
My mom was an exchange student. I thought it would be an interesting experience.
What has been the most surprising thing you've encountered so far?
The differences in how we celebrate Christmas… in Denmark we celebrate Christmas on your Christmas Eve. We dance around the Christmas tree and we have real candles on our trees.
What is your school (WHS.) like?
Very different than our schools at home because we switch classrooms every hour compared to in Denmark where the teacher comes to you.
Any other comments about Woodbury?
Read the original article here. This story features two AFS host families, the Pflieger and Aamodt families. Photo: Jen Aamodt had two daughters, now she has three.