International student exchange about relationships

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My family and I have been involved with AFS for many years. In the past three years we have hosted Muslim students from Indonesia and Pakistan through AFS Youth Exchange and Study programs.

I would like to focus on the two Muslim students we hosted through the AFS programs as the Muslim students attending Walla Walla High School have recently been mentioned in the letters to the editor.

So, what is amazing for my family about hosting a Muslim student through the AFS/YES program? The personal relationship.

An amazing relationship that is established over the course of one year for students and their host families. It is also a relationship rich in the sharing of culture and traditions. A phenomenal and life changing venture built on trust and communication. A relationship that carries through for many years to come.

While the host family is a key piece of the student’s experience, it takes a village to make a great year come together for any AFS/YES student.

These incredible relationships for our students extend past our host family’s walls, into our neighborhood, throughout the Walla Walla community, and within Walla Walla’s own AFS/YES support team.

As they are integrated into our community, the strong sense of belonging, and acceptance as individuals is established.

A big part of the AFS/YES students’ year is full immersion into the classes and activities at Walla Walla High School. The students are always so amazed by the options for classes. As their interests grew, their involvement in musical events, drama productions, and the building of new friendships, became part of their daily experience as a Walla Walla High School students.

An example of the phenomenal relationships established took place on our student Kiran’s last day in Walla Walla.

My family and I were at the Walla Walla airport for Kiran’s sendoff back to Pakistan. We were surprised at the airport by a group of Wa-Hi students who also came to say goodbye to Kiran.

These outstanding students had participated with Kiran in the Wa-Hi musical “Bye-Bye Birdie.” As we struggled with the goodbye, with the final “Walla Walla” words to say, no one left. These students stayed with their friend Kiran, stayed with her host family, as Kiran walked through security, as she walked on the plane, and as her plane flew off into the sky.

They weren’t saying goodbye to their friend Kiran from Pakistan, they were saying, “Until we meet again”.

Laura Reiter

Walla Walla

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