Home from abroad part III: Sharing your wisdom

AFS study abroad participant, Shanté (left), with a friend during her exchange year in Italy.

September 3, 2014 - Since returning from her AFS exchange year in Italy in 2012, Shanté Fencl has kept her study abroad memories alive and further validated her experience by stepping into the role of AFS Returnee Ambassador. Read her testimony below to see how she did it and why she can't imagine giving it up:


"My AFS experience began...

...in early 2011 when I applied for the Italy academic year program. Once I was accepted and getting ready to go abroad, I remember thinking how AFS would be a huge part of my year, but I never imagined it would become such a huge part of my life."

"After only a few months in my host town of Mantova, Italy, I knew I wanted to do as much for AFS as I could and I looked for ways to get involved as soon as I got back to the US."

"I have been a registered volunteer with AFS since 2012, and I help lead orientations for both hosted and outbound students in my area. I love working with the students because they share so many of my same thoughts and feelings."

Shanté visits the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Pisa, Italy.

"One of my favorite ways of doing this is hosting Speak with a Returnee webinars. I have hosted them for both prospective participants and students who have already been accepted to an AFS program and are about to depart for Italy. These talks are so gratifying because I am able to tell the students about my own experience and give them the advice I wish I’d had when I was in their position."

"We talk about everything from food and culture to packing and transportation. I become so immersed in the conversation that the hour goes by in what seems like minutes. The best part of it is the question and answer portion; The students ask me the most interesting questions that make me think back on my exchange year, such as, “What was your favorite meal?” and, “How did you deal with homesickness?” Every time I do one of the webinars I walk away feeling as if my host family is right beside me."

Shanté is greeted at the train station by members of her host family on her first day in Italy.

"Speak with a Returnee webinars are a very simple and easy way to stay involved. As the expert on your host country, you get to share your wisdom with the next generation of AFS students. The thank you emails I receive from the students let me know I am making a difference and keep me feeling eager to do more!"

-Shanté Fencl
Returnee Ambassador: Italy (2011-2012)


Take Action:

  1. Learn more about becoming a Returnee Ambassador or Returnee Country Specialist:
  2. Complete the Returnee Ambassador or Returnee Country Specialist training:
  3. Email us if you need any help along the way at: returnees@afsusa.org

Read the Complete Series

Check out the first two parts of our "Home from abroad" blog series:.