Returnees Reunite in San Francisco

AFS-ers gather for a potluck picnic at San Francisco's Chrissy Field.

August 21, 2014 - This August, AFS-ers from around the Bay Area gathered for a potluck picnic at Chrissy Field in San Francisco. Some of us came all the way from Napa, and some from Oakland and Berkeley. Although it was a longer trip for some of us, the beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge and meeting new friends was more than worth it. Our group was diverse - one student had just returned from her year in France, and one returnee studied in Thailand over 15 years ago. 
As usual with AFS events, we were lucky to have a variety of delicious food from everyone! Raysieo, who I met at the Returnee Leadership Summit in 2013, kindly brought us all Japanese pancakes that he loved to have while studying in Japan! 
The ReUnite was a great opportunity to meet Holly, the AFS Bay Area Community Development Specialist - she gave us a lot of great information on AFS volunteer opportunities coming up. Our group, mostly college students and recent grads, had so much fun getting to know each other and connecting over our exchange experiences. There were a few students who had studied in Thailand, and I was personally ecstatic to meet Elibet, a fellow Turkey returnee! The similarities we found in our programs were exciting, but made our ice breaker a little challenging. We went around in a circle sharing our name, AFS country, and fun facts, and each person was challenged to recite previous returnees' information. 
Because the Bay Area covers so many different cities, I especially love to get together with everyone because there are always new and old friends. It was so special to be able to connect with returnees we were meeting for the first time - everyone has such great ideas for future meet-ups. Although it can be hard for a big group to get together because of distance, the benefit of the Bay Area is the amazing variety of cafés, museums, and parks where we can hold our meet-ups! 
This ReUnite was an amazing opportunity to meet returnees that don't live quite as close to our local neighborhoods, re-live some favorite memories of our exchange years, and eat some delicious food together! Some of us are still in college, and all of us lead busy lives, but we are excited about our winter dinner party get-together in December! We love to be outdoors, but winter in San Francisco might be a little too cold for a Chrissy field picnic :-)

- Isobel, AFS/NSLI-Y Returnee, U.S. to Turkey