This is the first article in the 2018-19 academic year series ‘Opening our homes and minds: West Hartford’s AFS foreign exchange students and their host families.’
Interviewed and edited by Jamie Cohen, AFS volunteer (now), host sister (1980s) and returnee from Japan (1984)
Meet Aelis Damy from Paris, France. She is one of six AFS foreign exchange students at West Hartford’s Conard High School this school year.
Hi, Aelis! Tell us about yourself.
I’m from Paris, I’m 15 years old, a junior at Conard. I like sports, school, and hanging out with my friends and family. I have an amazing family here, and I’m having a great time in America. I’m so happy I came here.
Why did you want to be an AFS exchange student?
My mom went with AFS to the U.S. in the 1980s and told me about it. I wanted to see a new culture, and to become fluent in English, and to make my own experience and have my own AFS family. I’ve spent a few summers with her host sister’s family in Kansas City, MO. So I wanted to do it.
Why did you choose the U.S.?
Well, I almost chose Costa Rica because I thought it would be fun to learn Spanish, but changed to the U.S., because my mom had such a good experience when she was an exchange student. I wanted to have my own AFS family and my own experience.
What are the biggest cultural differences between France and here?
The biggest differences are the food and school. I definitely don’t eat typical French food here every day. The teachers are so different, they’re like your friends. Our teachers are much more formal. And the schedule is really different – the U.S. has so much more variety in classes to choose from.
What have you liked about Connecticut and West Hartford?
I like The Center in We-Ha because the atmosphere is very cool. And everyone is very nice here, too. I like that there are parks and a lot of nature, and that it’s very safe here.
What do you do outside of school here?
Outside of school here, I do theater, basketball, running, soccer, tennis. And I like to cook and hang out with my host family. And I like hanging out with my new American friends. I tried bubble tea, but it was not my favorite.
What would you like people reading this to know about:
France: I want people to know that French people are nice! You wouldn’t believe how many people tell me that they think French people are rude. Even if they’ve never been to France! J If you go to Paris, there is a lot of history and it’s interesting to visit.
Hosting an AFS exchange student: You have to be open-minded to be a good host family. And it’s important not to have problems with communication so you can discuss everything openly. And I think it’s easier when you and your host family have similar values, like my host family here.
Being an AFS exchange student: It’s a good opportunity to have in your life. And even if it doesn’t “count” for your school, like my year doesn’t count, go be an exchange student! But it’s also really important to be honest on your application so you find a good match. And you have to be open-minded and not shy. You have to reach out to meet people in school.
If you are interested in hosting an exchange student for the 2018-19 school year, or if your high-school aged student would like to participate in an AFS exchange, please contact Jamie Cohen at [email protected] or visit AFSUSA.org.
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