Foreign students end yearlong sojourn in Valley
By Amanda Tonoli
Three Mahoning County foreign-exchange students will bid adieu Monday to their American lifestyle of the last 10 months.
AFS Intercultural Programs (or AFS, originally the American Field Service) is an international youth exchange organization dedicated to sending students abroad for study.
Mona Steinte, 17, of Germany, attended Poland Seminary High School and stayed with host Terri Windsor.
She said she most enjoyed the American high school scene, with football games, trips and more.
“I made a lot of friends, but I also made family,” she said.
Windsor echoed Mona’s sentiment.
“She has become my daughter while she has lived with me since August, and I know [when she leaves on] June 25 will be one of the hardest days,” she said. “We intend to keep in contact with Skype and WhatsApp once she returns home to her family.”
Mona has made other close connections in the states, as well.
“I learned just to talk to people – even if you think you wouldn’t like them. I talked to someone when I first got here, and now she’s practically my best friend.”
Nicolas Lupi, 18, of Italy, agreed with Mona about the sentimentality of his experience.
“It was a cool idea,” Nicolas said. “I got to experience a different culture and get fully immersed with different people,” he said.
“It makes you grow and have a wider, broader mentality. ... Now the people I’ve met here seem like a second family, and it’s not awkward; it’s very natural. You grow when you’re in another world so you can figure yourself out.”
Nicolas attended Struthers High School for the 2017-18 school year. He stayed with host family Josh and Tara Bishop.
Jessica Christen, 17, of Switzerland stayed with host family Shannon and Mario Pecchia and attended Struthers High School, as well.
The experience for Shannon Pecchia was an eye-opener for her whole family, she said.
“I have two younger sons, and for them, it was just a whole different experience,” Pecchia said. “It was kind of like having an older sister who also helped expand our horizons [culturally].”
Jessica said she enjoyed the family dynamic of the Pecchias and will fondly remember that younger brothers are the same in any culture.
Windsor said AFS USA is looking for host families for foreign exchange students arriving in August.
“This program offers families the opportunity to learn about another part of the world, and the students enjoy living with host families and learning more about America,” she said. “We are currently looking for families to host students from Thailand, Japan, Spain, Turkey, Gaza Strip, Norway, Denmark, Germany and many other countries.”
For information contact Terri at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit afsusa.org/host-family/get-started/ or afsusa.org/northeast-ohio/.