Foreign Exchange Student Host Families Sought

The AFS Intercultural Program (or AFS, originally the American Field Service) is the oldest student foreign exchange program still in operation. It is seeking Gowanda-area family volunteers to host foreign exchange students for the 2019-2020 academic year.

The Gowanda Central School District has a long relationship with AFS and exchange students who come to the district are between age 15 and age 18 and arrive around mid-August. Exchange students typically perform well academically and many are interested in sports.

“AFS has helped put Gowanda on the map all over the world,” says local AFS volunteer liaison Betty Allen of Gowanda. “These kids keep coming back and the experience changes families’ lives. I have nothing but praise for this organization.”

Every year, about 40 students come to Western New York via the AFS program. Each family works with a liaison who helps everything is going smoothly and is there for support and guidance. Host families don’t necessarily need to have school-age children in their home. Many families that have hosted foreign exchange students are empty nesters who enjoy having a young person in the house.

The students come from all over — Europe, Asia, South America – and are matched with families and placed in different WNY communities. The program provides medical insurance for the students. While in the U.S., the students are expected to abide by three core rules: No drugs, no hitchhiking and no driving.

“The kids come and have varied interests,” says Allen. “Everybody has to make compromises and adjustments to being in a new family.”

What are host families expected to provide for the students?

“Love support, three meals and day and a hug once in a while doesn’t hurt,” says Allen. “Maybe make sure they go to Niagara Falls. The students are not here to be a guest – they are here to be part of an American family. You get to love and enjoy them for the 10 months they are here.”

There is no deadline for expressing interest in the program. Those interested are encouraged to reach out to Ms. Allen at 532-2559. The AFS contact for WNY is Jenna Powell at (585) 410-2017 and her email is

Here is some additional information about exchange students AFS is currently looking to place:

Kejsi from Albania loves learning foreign languages like Spanish, French, and Turkish, and expressing her creativity through drawing and photography. She has a particular fascination with architecture! Keijsi is passionate about the environment and regularly participates in cleanup efforts in her community.

Simon from Germany is a calm, friendly, and athletic student. He has a good relationship with his parents- he lives with his mom and visits his dad often. One of his favorite sports is American football! Since he lives near the mountains, he often goes hiking and biking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter, and loves swimming in the summer!

Kayo from Japan is a creative and crafty young woman who loves meditative arts like sewing and calligraphy. But she likes to stay active, too, and often spends time outdoors, with friends and at camp, kayaking, skiing and hiking. Her friends and family say that she’s a cheerful and thoughtful person.

Nicolas from Switzerland is musical, athletic, and studious. He enjoys playing sports, particularly volleyball, and loves to be on the move. He loves being in nature, hiking and watching wild animals. He especially enjoys bird watching with his ornithologic club. He loves playing the drums, and plays with a drum ensemble at village festivals.

Pim from Thailand is a dynamic, adventurous and artistic, who is passionate about food and loves to cook for her family. Pim also treasures having meals together with her loved ones, and can’t wait to cook for her new host family. Pim stays busy enjoying many hobbies including photography, drawing, singing and skateboarding.

Alessandro from Italy is an inquisitive, mature and active young man. When he was younger, he liked to take things apart and put them back together, and now loves to work on fixing cars and motorcycles. While in the past he has played several sports, such as soccer, tennis and water polo, now he has turned his attention to training in the gym twice a week.

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