For 18-year-old Johan Fridlund, the New Paltz Youth Program was a lot of fun. There aren’t youth centers with teen programming like that in Fridlund's hometown of Våxjo, Sweden. For the year he spent in New Paltz, his social life also revolved around New Paltz high school, where he had a circle of friends and a girlfriend. His host mom, Jessica Greenstein, described the year as enriching for everyone. Her family and Fridlund shared different traditions, like celebrating Chanukah (a first for Fridlund) and hanging colored feathers on branches - a Swedish Easter tradition, which Greenstein’s two sons really enjoyed. Fridlund volunteered as a buddy in the Special Needs baseball team that Greenstein and her husband launched in New Paltz, and tried square and contra dancing, a favorite family activity. Fridlund knew English when he arrived last fall, but by the end of his stay, he was fluent.
Greenstein is a Community Outreach Specialist for AFS-USA, the organization that coordinated Fridlund’s student exchange experience. Each year, AFS-USA sends approximately 1,100 US students abroad, provides $3 million in scholarships and financial aid, and welcomes 2,300 international high school students who come to study in US high schools and live with host families. Host families provide a bed and meals, share their daily lives, and help guide and support students as they would their own children. Families and their hosted students receive ongoing support from AFS staff and experienced, local volunteers. In the Hudson Valley, there are AFS community activities like orientations, potlucks, sleepovers, community service with the American Legion, walking tours of NYC, and hikes. “Any type of family can host,” Greenstein says. “Single parents, families with no kids, traditional nuclear families, gay couples. Any size, shape, or form of family is welcome.”
Right now, it’s crunch time to place students before school starts in September (though AFS accepts host family applications year round). The deadline to participate for this school year is August 31, 2016. AFS high school exchange students will be arriving on September 8, 2016 and will be here until June 26, 2017. There are multiple options for hosting an AFS high school student: as a welcome family (the first 8 to 12
weeks); as a first semester family; or as an academic year family (September to June).
For more information about how to host an internationa student, go to the AFS hosting page. To learn more about study abroad or volunteering with AFS, call 800-AFS-INFO, visit their website, or contact local Hudson Valley AFS contact, Jessica Greenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 845-594-7591.