The Dordal/Boyd family from Olympia, Washington was excited to reunite with their former exchange student, Gamze from Turkey. Despite the months and miles that separated them, Gamze fit right back into life with host parents Sonja and Brian and their children Isak and Elsa.

Most AFS Host Families welcome a student for a semester or school year, but the impact of this first-hand cultural exchange can last a lifetime. By bringing an international teen into their homes, families like the Dordal/Boyds have been able to create unforgettable memories and build lasting global friendships.

According to Sonja, soon after Gamze had arrived for her exchange year she had quickly become a true part of the family. When Gamze came for a reunion visit this summer, Brian described how excited he was to spend time with her again. “The day after she arrived we had a big party for her and her host brother and sister, both of whom had recently returned from their years abroad.”

The Dordal/Boyd family invited friends from the community who couldn’t wait to welcome Gamze “home,” including many students from the high school that she attended during her exchange. Plus, she had the chance to catch up with her host siblings, who had also grown from their own international experiences. (Isak just returned from the Philippines, where he was on a YES Abroad exchange, and Elsa was back from her first year of college in France.)

Brian and Sonja also shared new American traditions with their former exchange student by celebrating the fourth of July with her for the first time. As Gamze enjoyed the fireworks, she reflected on how her relationship with her second family has impacted her life:

 “Although the time goes by so fast, I realized that some things never change. I still call my host parents ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ and they still introduce me as their daughter. To me, that is the most important part of exchange: being a family forever despite thousands of miles.”

International students like Gamze are arriving with AFS this fall to share their stories and experience U.S. culture. If you’re curious about what it’s like to expand your family by welcoming an exchange student, let us know you’re ready to get started
. A local AFS representative will reach out to you to answer any questions you may have.

In the meantime, you can “meet” the students coming to your area and hear some of them personally introduce themselves!

Meet the Students