The 4th of July conjures classically American images: baseball, fireworks, hotdogs, Bruce Springsteen. It’s the day we celebrate the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation and celebrate the cultural diversity of our people. This is what makes America a beautiful fusion of ideas, customs, and traditions.
Every year, AFS welcomes nearly 2,300 students from around the world to spend a year with an American host family. These students share in the American traditions of prom, basketball, surfing—and in turn, their host families expand their own horizons through the introduction of a new culture into their home. This exchange is what makes our country flourish.
Last week, our exchange students who spent the last ten months in the U.S. flew back to their home countries. Prior to their departure, we conducted interviews with students and volunteers. AFS Volunteer Tom M. shared his thoughts on the importance of Americans becoming host families:
“For Americans, it opens your eyes up to the world. I came from a very small town that was not diverse and you didn’t have that exposure to other cultures, so I think it’s very important for Americans to experience hosting an exchange student. Hosting allows you to connect with students from different countries and cultures.”
AFS Volunteer Rachel echoed Tom’s sentiments: “It’s good to diversify and see different people’s perspectives and learn different things. The exchange students teach you as much as you teach them. They’re going to go back to their cultures and change people.”
When we asked students if there was anything they learned in the U.S. they would like to start doing at home, we received answers like:
“I definitely want to do Thanksgiving.”—Paula from Spain
“I’m excited to teach my family how to compost and recycle.”—Maria from the Dominican Republic
“I want to be much more open like my host family. People here say hello to people on the street!”—Christina from Norway
So, as we celebrate July 4th by barbequing with friends or watching fireworks from our backyards, let’s also celebrate cultural diversity in America, which provides a place for people from all walks of life to exchange their cultures and bring something back home.
Interested in becoming a host family for an AFS student? Click here to meet students coming to your area.