For Valentine's Day, AFS travels the world to celebrate love
AFS exchanges prove that love can cross the globe and span generations. For Valentine's Day, we're indulging in some of the most inspiring AFS love stories. Grab some chocolates and candy and get teary-eyed with us as you read stories of familial love, romantic love, and amazing multinational weddings!
One of our favorite stories features AFS Volunteer Murray Johnson and his Indian host daughter from 2007, Tanvee. Murray has hosted an astounding 21 students, who have come from a new country almost every time! Clearly they all hold a special place in his heart. Recently, he and his wife connected their global family in new ways by taking their current host daughter from Chile to Tanvee's wedding in India.
If that story alone doesn't pull at your heart-strings, check out what other AFSers have to say about traveling the world to celebrate love.
Dutch Cows Say Boo. That was the title of an article I wrote during my year in The Netherlands with AFS in 1963-64. That short sentence summed up all that was vastly different between Holland and America then — food (milk and vegetables brought to the neighborhood by horse and cart), clothes, houses, schools, language, and even the language of animals. But of all the multitude of differences that existed between the cultures of the two countries fifty years ago, one enduring thing was the same: the love and friendship between people. That love needed no common language… In 2008 my son, Chad, a lawyer, was selected to work at the International Court of Justice in The Hague for five years. He spent many weekends with our Dutch family in Eindhoven, camping with them in Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany and British Columbia and skiing with them in Switzerland. He celebrated Sinter Klaas with them and made kroketen in their kitchen. In April of this year, he was best man in Joke's oldest son's wedding. Today, 50 years after I first left Holland, the differences between America and The Netherlands are not so great — Dutch Cows still say boo, but the clothes, the toilets, the freeways and computers are not dissimilar. The one enduring thing, the thing that AFS was so great at nurturing and strengthening, the love and friendships that last a lifetime between students and their host families, and even between the 2nd generation of their families, is stronger than ever.— Leigh Farrell
I was an exchange student in Belgium in 1988, 26 years ago… In the many years since studying abroad I have been back to Belgium for the wedding of my host sister Françoise, the wedding of my host brother Jean-Jacques, and my host parents came the US for my wedding in 2001. I spent Christmas with the family while on a trip to Europe in 1997 and most recently, in 2011 brought my entire family to meet all their Belgian "cousins." I now have two girls and my host sister has two girls and a boy about the same age. While the kids didn't speak each other's language, they got along just fine with gestures and just talking French and English at the same time... We celebrated my husband's birthday while there with a wonderful Belgian chocolate cake and took the whole family to visit the Grand Place in Brussels. — Michelle Greet
Javier, from Chile who was living with us in New York spent Memorial Day weekend, 2010 with his extended host family in Chicago celebrating his host brother's wedding. His host sister, Kendra (pictured with red stripes) was an AFS exchange student in Panama during the second half of Javier's stay, and flew from Panama to Chicago with her Panamanian host sister, Naomy (pictured on the right) to be in the wedding. For five days, we celebrated as one big global family - sightseeing, boating, dancing, chatting in Spanish and English. We were so excited to be able to share our family's celebration with Javier AND to share Javier with our family! — David and Linda Burpee