review

After having been with us for 6 months, during which our student (a girl from Denmark) hadn't complained about anything, she left for a new host family with only overnight notice. AFS made no attempt to communicate with us in advance, and neither did the student or her parents (whom we vaguely know). I am not blaming the latter on AFS. So what was wrong? Why did she want to move to a new host family? Well, to this day no one in this family really knows. After having done numerous kind things for her to make her feel welcome and part of our family – attending and cheering for her at sports meets around the state and the rest of New England, sponsoring her AT&T program, letting her invite friends over just like our own children do, taking her on several sightseeing/shopping tours of New York City, one of them including a private, catered circumnavigation of Manhattan and Liberty Island, bringing her to our ski home for skiing, buying her friend (another AFS student) a ski pass and inviting her to our ski home, too (by the way, the friend was a very well-behaved and less spoiled young lady), buying birthday and Christmas presents for her, baking her chosen cake for her birthday, making her an advent calendar, making her favorite Danish food (we are of Danish origin, too) and even making additional batches of her favorite food which were frozen for her to eat when she would like, baking her maternal grandmothers favorite cookies for Christmas, so she could feel at home, putting up her paternal grandmother’s picture in our kitchen (the grandmother passed away while she was here) so she could cherish her memory – she suddenly decided, that we weren’t a good fit for her (at least that’s what she told AFS – or that’s what they told us). The truth was one of her teammates from her sports team at school had offered to host her, and that family having this girl her own age, she just found a better deal. It is quite easy to figure that one out and she felt so bad about it that she didn’t dare to tell the truth neither to AFS, to us nor to her own parents. Her dad said he wasn’t sure what had happened, either, when he called us after she had moved out. He claimed to have been told by his daughter to not tell us anything prior to her move, and AFS confirmed they had not said anything because the girl had told them not to. Of course she demanded that, because she knew that if she said something to us, we would have had a conversation about it (we don’t sweep things in under the rug) and it would have been revealed that she simply wanted to move to a new family.
Let me be clear. I couldn’t care less that she went to a new family. Our family didn’t sign up as a host family for our own personal sake. We have already had a very successful experience with an exchange student before (through Rotary, which has an excellent and far cheaper program (for the student) than AFS). We opened our home to your AFS student as a favor to her parents and to her (and to support AFS, I guess, in addition the $20,000 it costs an AFS student to enter the program) but there was nothing in it for us other than costs and inconveniences. Since we are both already from Denmark it wasn’t as is we would learn a new culture. So if she wanted a new family fine by me. But I want to be treated with respect, especially by AFS who take great advantage of their host families given that a year of food, electricity, water, restaurants, etc., easily run over $10,000. The VERY LEAST AFS could have done was to man up and treat our family with respect and INFORM US in advance, once they saw a problem arising. But AFS choose not to, because the truth is that in our case they would have had a problem if we had demanded that she move out right away. Of course, we would never had done that, but had we done so, AFS would have had a problem, because the liaison didn’t have the proper paper work in place to be able to have our exchange student sleep over (background check not in order), and there were no other approved families in our town, so our student would have had to move to a different town and switch schools. Instead, until the background check for the new family was in place, it was simply more convenient for AFS to keep quiet. Alternatively, the AFS liaison in our area lives 10 miles away from the school so she would have had to drive her to school every day and pick her up again. The AFS liaison in our area is a woman who herself was an exchange student 50 years ago, but other than that has no merits qualifying her to handle situations with decency, and as it turns out, several other families in our area have had similar experiences with her and with AFS: Namely, that all you are to them is a bed and breakfast, a wallet that they can use until they no longer deem you necessary, at which time AFS will trash you as they see fit.
It appears that “with the relative high cost of participation in the AFS program, it accepts upper middle income students from abroad” who bring with them spoiled, ungrateful, "prima donna" attitudes of entitlement. If you want to be "used" as a free hotel or "B&B" without any gratitude or appreciation, then by all means sign up as an AFS family. If you perform to the student’s every whim, you may have a great experience, but if not, be forewarned you'll be lucky to get so much as a "thank you" for all your efforts. AFS is a disgrace.

Program: 
Location: 
Program: 
Overall: 
1
Support: 
1
Value: 
1

Comments

Almost and identical experience, even down to the student being removed a month before her time was up. Manipulated the situation to her advantage to move in with another exchange student, in a home that was more lax with rules. Believe me...we were not strict, just wanted to know where she was going. Spoiled, ungrateful, prima donna? That and beyond. Our first liaison quit because of her behavior and then we were on our own. The second liaison? They pulled in a mental health specialist because of her manipulation and lies. We spent thousands of dollars on trips, amenities and gifts. Remodeled a room especially for her. Support from AFS?? Hell, no. They make too much money off the fee to step in and God forbid, rock the boat, with a family that is paying a fortune to send their entitled, spoiled brat to the US. Stay away from this program. It's been almost 4 years since our experience and it's one that my family will never forget. It took an emotional toll on all my children as well.