By Sanyukta Buwa | Alumni’15 from Mumbai | Hosted in Germany 

“My journey with AFS began in 2014. I had first applied for a ten months exchange program to Germany after finishing school but backed out because I was not confident. I started learning German right after school because of my interest in languages and was soon notified by local AFS volunteers about two months of a short-term reciprocal exchange program to Germany during summer vacations. It came to me as the perfect opportunity as I was fairly good with German by the time I left.

My lovely host family had four people in it – parents, a brother and a sister. It was truly a multicultural and multilingual family. My host mother had Chilean and Spanish roots. She had family in almost all parts of the world. During my stay, many of her friends and relatives from across the globe came to visit us. Her father had come to stay with us for a month all the way from Santiago de Chilé. It not only helped me in getting to know the German culture but also in understanding the South American culture closely. Food and music from various countries had become a part of my daily life. As my family was multilingual, I picked up a few words of Spanish, attained considerable fluency in German and was also able to grasp the local dialect – Schwäbisch.

I was placed in Tübingen, which is a beautiful town to the southwest of Germany near Stuttgart. It is called ‘The town of Universities’. My family took me around the entire town and we loved riding our bicycles along the river Neckar on a sunny spring day. All of us were passionate about traveling and I explored parts of Bavaria, Frankfurt, Berlin, and Stuttgart with my family and friends. I attended a German high school with my host sister. The German education system, the standard of education, overall learning atmosphere and infrastructure left me in admiration. I was determined on pursuing my higher education in Germany.

After my stay in Germany, my host sister came to stay with us in Mumbai as a part of the reciprocal exchange program. We had a wonderful time together. She enjoyed trying all kinds of Indian cuisines. As it was peak monsoon season, we could experience plush greenery everywhere while traveling.

I continued learning German after my exchange program and kept in touch with my host family and friends in Germany. I visited my host family in Germany with my Indian family one year after my exchange. My host mother came to visit us in Mumbai last year. She had been practicing Yoga for many years and was very keen on visiting India.

AFS brought along a huge change in my life and helped me in finding a path to my future. It made me realize the importance of giving back to our society. We were very happy to host an Austrian girl for three months. I wanted more and more people to make use of this life-changing opportunity and so I became an active volunteer with AFS in 2016.

Educating host families and students about intercultural differences and creating an open-minded approach among them are the most crucial things that I have been able to do as an AFS volunteer.

Thanks to all my incredible mentors in the Mumbai Chapter, I have been serving as a Sending Coordinator for KL-YES (Kennedy Lugar – Youth Exchange and Study) Programme under their guidance since 2017.

I was intending on applying to German universities this year for my Master’s but I read something in the November 2018 Newsletter which caught my eye. AFS Germany was offering 4 internship spots for international volunteers/returnees in the 18+ Programmes Department at their head office in Hamburg for a duration of one year. The job description matched my exact interests, I had the required experience and qualified in other criteria along with language proficiency expected. I applied for the internship immediately. Recently, I received an email from AFS Germany for scheduling a skype-interview. The interview went smoothly and I was told shortly after that I had been selected for the internship.

I feel truly honored and happy to have received this opportunity. This will be a great learning experience for me. It will help me in finding a clearer path in my future and new roads will open up by engaging with more people from around the world. I am thankful to both of my Indian and German families for their strong support in my decisions, my friends and every person in AFS with whom I have worked so far, for enriching me with experiences that I needed. I would like to end this by saying what the Germans say while starting something new and exciting – los geht’s!”