Thirteen Greater Charlotte families welcomed a new son or daughter this week into their homes. Not babies, however. They are hosting foreign exchange students from nine countries around the world, here to spend up to a year living the life of an American teenager.

AFS-USA, a leader in high school student exchange for more than 70 years, invites families of all kinds from the Charlotte area to become host for foreign exchange students. Hosting provides individuals, families, and communities with opportunities to learn about new cultures while sharing the best of one’s community with a person from a different country.

A recent online survey conducted on behalf of AFS-USA by The Harris Poll, found 81 percent of U.S. adults believe hosting a high school foreign exchange student makes a person more well-rounded, and another 81 percent believe the hosting experience makes people better global citizens.

“I’ve learned so much from my students as a person. I’ve learned patience and to be more understanding, and that comes from being a host mom and spending time with students from diverse cultures,” said Rebecka Nelli, who has been an AFS-USA Volunteer and Host Parent for several years.

This year’s students come from Brazil, Turkey, Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Philipines, Kenya, and Sweden.

As chapter of one of the largest such organizations globally, the Greater Charlotte area has been hosting and sending students since its inception in 1948.  Each year,  families volunteer to open their homes and share their lives with high school students from 59 countries around the world. They receive ongoing support from trained staff and experienced volunteers through their local network of dedicated volunteers, alumni, and other host families. This method of building one-on-one multicultural relationships supports the AFS Mission of helping to create a more just and peaceful world.

Would you like to have one of these students speak to your organization about their country?  Students prepare presentations in order to serve as student leaders.  They have chosen to travel here to learn this culture, and the Greater Charlotte community enjoys the opportunity to learn theirs.  Contact Rebecka Nelli at [email protected].

“Welcoming exchange students changes people’s perspectives—the community learns a lot more and opens up their breadth of understanding,” Nelli said.