Meet Stephanie Davidson of Helotes, Texas. She’s an AFS returnee who participated in two AFS Summer Study Abroad programs: A community-service based program in Panama and a Spanish language immersion program in Paraguay. Back home in Texas, she’s keeping her international passions alive as an AFS volunteer. Here is her AFS story:
Why did you choose AFS for your exchange experience?
A host family invited my family to an AFS picnic. While there, we were made to feel so welcome by the kind and helpful San Antonio volunteers that we knew we wanted to be involved with AFS.
What impact has your connect with AFS had upon your life?
I discovered so much about myself on the two AFS programs I completed. Every day I was learning something new and how to be on my own. For me it influenced what I wanted to study in college and what I wanted to do in my life – Foreign service and diplomacy. The connections I’ve made through AFS have helped me realize how much more there is outside of my hometown and state. I’ve also improved my Spanish and learned Arabic.
Why did you want to be involved with AFS as a volunteer upon your return?
I wanted to show how much I appreciated the experiences I had on AFS’ programs, and I wanted to share those experiences with other young people. During my program to Paraguay, in particular, thanks in part to my incredible host family, my Spanish improved so much that I tested into Spanish 4. The best part is, my mom was so happy that the investment had paid off that she decided to become an AFS-USA volunteer, too. This allows for a real family connection because we both really like AFS!
What volunteer roles do you hold with AFS?
I talk with families and students about opportunities to study abroad with AFS, and I also support host family recruitment. Additionally, I serve as a group leader at exchange student orientations. I feel my first-hand experience is helpful when talking with both families and students who are thinking of either going abroad or hosting.
How can study abroad returnees like you help AFS-USA meet its mission?
The most important thing is to stay involved with AFS and tell people about your AFS experiences. I had such a good experience and love to share it with those who have similar interests to mine. Once back in their home high schools, returnees can and should tell other students and teachers about their experiences, or even give presentations about them. For example, I had to give a presentation in my Speech class about a non-profit, so I spoke about AFS.
I’m certain if I had ceased my involvement I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to take part in the leadership conference I attended in Washington DC last year. Thank you to the volunteers Eric Lomeli and Mark Patisiner who referred me and keep me up to date about AFS events and opportunities!
What are your plans for the future?
After high school I plan on participating in a Gap year program before attending college.