Janet Gaudet became involved with the Greater Illinois Team after getting to know the hosted student of a close friend. Over the year she had the opportunity to get to know the student and to learn more about the program. Currently she is a liaison, but in the past has been involved as a sending and hosting volunteer and a host family.
How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved?
I became involved with the Greater Illinois Team after getting to know the hosted student of a close friend. Over the year I had the opportunity to get to know the student and to learn more about the program. Currently I am a liaison, but in the past has been involved as a sending and hosting volunteer and a host family.
What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?
I think it’s a great program. I enjoy meeting the students and interacting with them. Not only have I gained cultural knowledge along the way, I have built lasting relationships with many students. I appreciate the opportunities that AFS has provided to many students and families. I think it is important for people to experience cultural diversity, as well as to gain valuable insight regarding the differences in our world.
What’s a typical volunteer “shift” like for you?
Currently, I am liaison for a student from Sweden. I meet with him each month, as well as the host family. I try to attend events whenever time allows, and do what I can to assist in a variety of things. This includes following up on hosting leads, performing sending interviews, checking in with other liaisons to ensure that monthly contacts are completed. Additionally, this was my second year at hosting the mid-year orientation for students in our area. I thoroughly enjoy spending time with the kids and take advantage of any opportunity to do that.
What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience with AFS?
I have learned many things from various students in the past six years. Not only have I received a close up and personal view of other cultures, I have had the opportunity to bond with these students and assist with anything that is needed, whether it be emotional support, academic assistance, language barriers, etc. This has been a learning experience for me as well and I feel very fortunate to have been allowed these opportunities.
Please share the best thing or the funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS?
This is a hard one! I have had so many best things throughout my time with AFS. Meeting and interacting with each student has been a great experience for me. I would say that the “best thing” has been spending time with the students and getting to experience USA through their eyes!
The funniest thing is definitely related to their adjustment to our language and culture. Most students have a great sense of humor and often relay their “mishaps” with language and meanings regarding something that happened at school or at home. I have had many laughs with my students and I have thoroughly enjoyed it! One example is when American students greet them with “What’s up?” and the students tell me they look up and wonder what it means.
What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS?
I would like to tell people what a great program this is! There are many volunteer opportunities. Additionally, being a host family is a very fulfilling experience and everyone should try it! Being involved with AFS has been a very rewarding experience and I guarantee most people who decide to get involved would agree!
What is the one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?
I teach part-time at a local community college and I often speak about my AFS students (past and present) and the experiences I have had. Not only does this generate a great discussion, but it also “spreads the word” about the program!