For Volunteer Appreciation Month, AFS GPS would like to spotlight and thank one of our outstanding volunteers! Rachael is new to volunteering with GPS this year, and does a fabulous job engaging our community by developing our social media and blog content. Thanks, Rachael!

Here are some words from her on what AFS means to her and why she volunteers:

“Hello! My name is Rachael and I am a newer volunteer to the GPS chapter. I started volunteering as the Communications Coordinator about a year and a half ago, and this Spring semester I am a liaison as well (I have previously been a volunteer and co-liaison while at university in Oregon, though I was not as involved as I feelI  am now.) I am also a Returnee that studied abroad in Italy in 2010 to 2011 school year. That year in Italy changed my life. It has not only changed how I travel (I try my best to meet local people, form relationships, establish myself in a community, and learn some of the language) but it has also changed how I view the world and how I navigate life.

That sort of immersion made me realize the kind of differences that could be made in the world just by intercultural exchanges, intercultural communication, and willingness to listen and be open-minded. That really stuck with me. In that one year I had learned so much about myself, my home country, my host country, and my fellow exchange students and even a bit about their home countries. Prior to this experience I would have considered myself well travelled, though afterwards I could never have imagined the amount I could learn and how much my perspectives and views would have changed.

I volunteer because I truly believe that world peace, or at least a more understanding, peaceful and better world would be attainable simply with more intercultural dialog, exchanges, and immersive opportunities such as what AFS provides. I also feel passionately that in a world that is growing and advancing as rapidly as is, with more people traveling, immigrating, crossing borders, with information technology spreading… it is critical that we at least do our part in trying to be understanding of where others come from, and work towards being able to better communicate. So much of this can only be achieved by immersion and cultural context to fully understand where others different from oneself may be coming from.

In addition to volunteering for this passion, I just genuinely enjoy meeting new students from all around the world. I enjoy meeting like-minded individuals through the organization whether they are other volunteers, host families, etc. I enjoy surrounding myself with others that share similar values. I love the AFS network and community that I have found here at home in Seattle, but also all around the world (I still keep in touch with many other exchange students from all over the world who studied in Italy with me. I Have even gone to visit some in Ecuador, throughout the US, and this summer will be going to visit others throughout Europe and Eastern Mediterranean). I feel so incredibly lucky to be involved in such an organization that allows me to work towards a goal I am passionate about while also getting to meet so many new people from all over, different from myself, allowing me to expand my knowledge and understanding of this world. I love learning something new from everyone. I couldn’t imagine another way to get such diversity in my life, and I love it!’

Thank you, Rachael, for your enthusiasm and passion that you share with AFS GPS! We are so thankful for your commitment to help engage and bring the community together!