December 23, 2019 – ​On Monday, the Baltimore Sun published an article about AFS Exchange Students living with host families in the Baltimore area. The story highlights the students’ holiday traditions from their home countries and, by contast, how they have spent the end of year while living in the U.S. with their host families.

Around this time of year, some students feel homesick or miss their own Christmas or Hanukkah customs. Others (for example, students who come from predominantly Muslim countries), may be experiencing the lights, music, and traditions of the winter holiday season for the first time.

Paolo, a 17-year-old from Rome, Italy,  says he hasn’t felt any pangs of homesickness. Instead, he is enjoying the process of discovering unfamiliar traditions:

“It has been a great experience being here and getting to learn about the United States. I’m enjoying all the ways in which things are different.”

Christina McGarvey, an AFS Volunteer in Baltimore area, has seen many students compare and contrast their own traditions with American ones. Oftentimes, they exhibit a sense of wonder. For example, McGarvey recalls a student being shocked to see rows of streets with houses covered in Christmas lights. In the student’s native Germany, businesses may decorate for Christmas, but not individual homes.

The full article is now available online, and will be published in the Sun’s print edition on Christmas Day. To read the article, click here.

Learn about hosting an international exchange student as an AFS host family.