"Dear Potential Host Family..."

AFS Exchange Student, Valeria, from Italy, composing a letter to potential host families.

Studying abroad in high school is a transformational experience for a young person. This fact is especially apparent on "Departure Day," when all 2,300 AFS-USA foreign Exchange Students say goodbye to their host families and friends and depart for their home countries. For many of these students, the realization that they will soon be re-immersed among the people and places associated with their former lives (i.e. their pre-exchange lives) puts into perspective just how much they have changed over the past ten months, and how grateful they are to have had this experience.

Valeria, from Italy, is one such student, and she was moved to put her thoughts into words. Her letter, displayed below, is directed towards U.S. families and individuals who have yet to welcome an exchange student like her in their lives. In Valeria's own words, here is what they should know:

Read Valeria's Full Letter

Dear Potential Host Family:

This year in the U.S. has changed my life forever. When you decide to be an exchange student, you have to be aware that this means be ready to experience a big variety of emotions. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always absolutely worth it.

I lived with a single host parent and another AFS student, and even though my host family wasn’t “traditional” one, my experience was perfect; I came here to experience differences and that was the best part.

Every day you learn a new life lesson, every day you give something, but also receive something. My experience taught me to appreciate every little success, not to take anything for granted.

The relationship that I developed with my host family is amazing. My host mum helped me to have the best experience of my life. When you realize how lucky you are to have someone, who is taking the time to host you, you feel SO grateful. I know that hosting could seem awkward or weird sometimes, but it’s amazing how quickly the student becomes part of the family.

Having a good relationship is key to experience a “new” life, a new culture, in a new country. To be in a host family who is sharing everything with you is one of the greatest gifts and exchange student could receive. Because by sharing, as I did, It just made me feel like home, and I was part of the family. When I left my host family, my mom thanked me for the fun times that we shared. In that moment, I realized how strong our relationship was. Finally, I would say that hosting is not only having and exchange student for a certain amount of time, But hosting is an experiences that shapes you for life.

Please consider hosting. I know you will love it.

Sincerely,

Valeria, from Italy