By Ananya Kukreja, AFS Short-term Program Participant to Germany
On 23rd July 2015, my journey with AFS started. At first, I was in a double mind whether I should apply for the AFS program or not, but then somehow my gut feeling said “GO FOR IT!” and I applied.
AFS has its own special factor or impact which I can’t describe on a piece of paper. Out of all the programs I had chosen the short -term one to Germany, I was placed in Heilbronn which is one of the most famous city in the country. The moment I reached the airport I said to myself that either this program can make me or break me! But in my case it was a total win-win situation.
I was travelling with two other participants who were from Indore, whom I did not know personally before and now they are really close to me! We three traveled to Germany together and at the Arrival Orientation, I met 10 other participants from different countries Each of us were assigned with a host family. Whenever I hear the word “host family” my German family pops up in my mind. Sometimes I really feel that they are like my real family as somewhere down the line my daily life revolves around them. I have gone through all, going to an unknown country, staying with strangers, interacting with people from diverse backgrounds but the major impact on me was my host family; there was not even one single day when I felt out of place! Till date, I am in touch with them. My host sister and I video chat each other till late night everyday while our moms from India and Germany shout at us to keep the phone down, but we do not hear a word and continue to talk like teenager girls talk. It’s like we all share a bond even if we don’t have the same blood we are connected to the same ardour and emotions. After being on the AFS exchange program, I believe a family is not only known by blood, it’s known by relationships that we built throughout time. There is not even one day that I have not spoken to them after my trip; in fact they visited me last year.
AFS is an amazing feeling, which was a turning point in my life. I am sure when you must be reading this many questions would be popping in your mind like; how should one manage? How to interact with people? How to mix well? and etc. But trust me it’s all normal. At first I was also reading the experiences and articles that people wrote in the newsletter to make myself aware about AFS, But it’s an once in a lifetime opportunity which I personally feel no one should miss cause one will experience bonding, cultural exchange, love from your host family most importantly living in a foreign country. In my case I loved it to the core, I felt like spending my rest of the life there but I had other priorities back in India and my parents who would call me every time and tell me to come back soon! That feeling which I am talking about someone will understand it only when he or she experiences AFS and applies for a program. I still remember the people I met and befriended during my exchange, till date I am in touch with them; the tears I shed; the last goodbyes I said; those group hugs and selfies; the hugs and kisses we shared; but the most important thing was when I said my last goodbye to my family and when my host mother came up to me and kissed me on my forehead and she said “WE ARE FAMILY ALWAYS”. All these memories are with me in the form of photographs but that kiss from my host mom which is still imprinted in my heart, my host sister’s scream when I was at the airport, going towards my gate she came running and said, “Annie you’re the best sister ever and come back soon” ! My host father who said it’s not the “last goodbye” which was true because they visited me this year, and in July I visited them! My host brother who does not hug anyone came up to me and hugged me so tightly that all of us were so astonished the way he said “I love you my second sister” gave me chills. My personal advice to everyone is that the experience with AFS is beautiful, different from other exchange programs, gives one a feeling of happiness, love and belongingness. It’s like a home away from home and one should definitely try it.