The Quandt family first started hosting with AFS-USA in the 1960s when they welcomed Kashu, a student from Afghanistan, into their home. This hosting experience was the catalyst for a fifty-year, multi-family journey that continues to this day. The Quandts and their extended family went on to host students from Switzerland, Spain, Germany, South Korea, and Chile. Soon enough, lives from all around the world were forever changed. Shelley Quandt tells their story and how it has taken her and her family – both related and hosted – across the globe to weddings, holidays, and everything in between.
I really don’t remember when I first met my uncle, Kashu, but I have always known I had an uncle who happened to be from Afghanistan. Suraj Parkash (“Kashu”) Tschand lived with my grandparents and my aunts and uncle in Jefferson, Wisconsin in 1965-66. My dad was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that year, so he spent time with Kashu when he was home for breaks. My first airplane ride was to visit Kashu’s family in New Jersey when I was seven years old. He’s been there for everything important – graduations, weddings, babies, and funerals.
A Dream of Going Abroad
I began learning French when I was in 7th grade. By then I knew that Kashu came to Wisconsin on a foreign exchange program called AFS. I loved learning French and about French culture. I wanted to be an exchange student, too! When I was a sophomore in high school, I applied to study abroad with another program. I think it was because there were no volunteers to send U.S. kids through AFS in our area in 1990. Man, I wish I would have worked harder to go with AFS. I was the kid who didn’t get a host family. I was crushed.
Like Brother and Sister
That’s how hosting through AFS became a reality for our family. My parents decided that we’d host a student from Fribourg, Switzerland in 1991-92. Antoine Eigenmann is my first host brother. We shared our Senior year of High School. He really was my brother. We had different friends and different interests. We bickered like a brother and sister do. It was perfect. We’ve kept in touch over the years. You know the drill – weddings, babies and the like.
Francisco Joins the Family
In 1992, I was a Freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In early October, my parents told me that they had another AFS student moving in over the weekend. He was from Jerez de la Frontera, Spain and needed a place to stay while a new host family was found. He just didn’t feel comfortable where he was and our liaison, Eunice, thought my parents might just be able to help. Sure enough, Francisco Barroso was here to stay and I had another brother! Like my dad and Kashu, I got to know Francisco over school breaks and was honored to attend his wedding a few years later.
Finally, in 1994 it was my turn to study abroad. I spent the year in Aix-en-Provence, France through a partnership with UW-Madison. I spent my Christmas and February breaks in Fribourg, Switzerland with Antoine and his French-speaking family. They hosted me during my exchange. I had my host family after all!
Another Continent to Visit
My children have grown up knowing Kashu, Antoine and Francisco as their AFS uncles. I’ve often promised that we’d learn about another culture through hosting some day. COVID-19 put those plans on hold for a year or two, but this year, Pedro Michea Soria has joined the family. He is from Rancagua, Chile. We’re learning about Chilean culture, food and picking up on some Spanish as well. We have another continent to visit and the chance to grow our international family even more.
— Shelley Quandt