By Manish Kothari, Natural Family of AFS Exchange Student, Nandita Kothari & Host Family of Davide (Italy) & Yuma (Japan)
Dear AFS India,
We Kothari family would like to express our extreme gratitude for giving us an opportunity to connect with AFS and its extended family. Beginning with the exposure of our daughter Nandita in Germany, the journey has been of excitement, emotions, relations, and building a global family. This is the real connect and way of creating a great understanding of cultures of the world. I have been connected to Europe for more than 25 years professionally and have made personal rapport with many Italian, French & Germans in particular. However, these relations were from a safe distance, but with AFS things were closer. In 2015, we were probably one of the few families to have met our host son and his parents before his arrival in India. We enjoyed the emotions and understanding of each other with the ups & downs of the mood curve over 10 months.
We were blessed with a son from Italy, a country which has always given Indian families the toughest challenges in emotional connect. Yes, it is true that Italian families are very very emotionally connected, and in fact it was something which we understood and embraced. The bonding between our daughter Nandita & Davide was of a typical sister & brother.. emotions, fights, and caring. It is this experience of Germany, and staying with Davide which encouraged Nandita to explore the possibility of taking the best Culinary education in Italy, with the back up of a brother and his family in Italy. Davide (taking after his father) has been a good teacher of Italian, and prepared Nandita in language, encouraged her, and helped in all ways to get her admission done in Italy. Him being there in Italy and assuring of support for any problem, was enough to give us the confidence to allow our daughter to study abroad alone all by herself. Her own confidence built with the stay in Germany and clarity in thought of her future, and her dreams were also equally important enablers. Here also the learning of AFS, training and readiness to be a global citizen gave the journey to Italy a boost. Well, the journey did not end here…the support from the family of Davide to provide the invitation letter for stay before the course, and readiness to welcome her in their family a month before the course started was unconditional, and filled with love and affection. Though they lived in a small village of 500 people, with just 2 streets to define the village, they welcomed her with an open heart, and took care of her for the first month of her stay in Italy. It looks small, but AFS has brought two families across the continents together with a bond as close or sometimes stronger than blood relationships.
In the last week of her stay, Rashmi & I both decided to be with her. Once again Pino family welcomed us with so much love and affection. We felt as if we knew them for years together, and it was just an extension of our own Indian family in Italy.
AFS has really shown the power of cultural exchange, and how families from countries of diverse cultures can come together. Our journey with AFS continues, and will continue. We wish more and more people embrace the cultures of not only other countries, but within India. It has been an amazing connecting with AFS since last 2 years, and we do think it is an excellent opportunity for those connected with AFS to understand themselves, their own family and families of the world. We feel blessed to be an AFS family!