Far away but still at home
Some may argue that all humans are the same. Others claim that they are vastly different, and that it is their unique cultures, languages, experiences, and dreams that make them beautifully individual.
Through travelling however, humans are capable of understanding the paradoxical truth of it all: that in fact we are all Human, yet our differences leave us with much to learn from one another. Studying world history, foreign language, current events and global cultures by experiencing them face on is an unparalleled opportunity for students.
Every year, Duxbury families host students who are studying through the AFS (once known as American Field Service) Intercultural Programs.
At Duxbury High School, the AFS club is a place for exchange students, their hosts, and anyone else interested in the program, to come together and support each other through the transition.
Ms. Jackson, a Spanish teacher at DHS and the advisor of the AFS club said, “The AFS club is designed to be a support system. The students who are hosting have been great, so they haven’t really needed much of my support.”
This year, Jake M, a freshman at DHS, and his family are one of three Duxbury families hosting exchange students through AFS this year. Jake’s family is hosting Felix, a junior from Frankfort, Germany.
When he first heard the news that Felix would be living with his family this year, Jake was excited.
“I thought it would be fun to have an older brother,” said Jake.
Felix came in October having never met Jake and his family.
“They just sent me the information and what my family is like, and we just emailed only a week before I came,” said Felix.
Felix was inspired by the idea of a new family, country, and culture to study in the US.
“I have to see new things and I couldn’t stay my whole life in the same place,” said Felix. “It has also been a really good life experience, and with travel you grow faster. I’m more of an adult now than I was before.”
To ease the transition, Felix joined the football team this fall, having never played before. Joining a team made it easy for Felix to make new friends and create a routine of his own in Duxbury.
“He’s branched out; he played football this fall so he’s friends with a lot of kids on the football team,” said Jake. “He’s pretty good at making friends, and he likes it here. He likes being independent.”
Most kids when given the opportunity, opt out of studying abroad in high school with fear that they would be homesick for their sports, social life and family back home. Felix said, “The thing with homesickness is that you have to build a routine here. In the US there are many sports in school. It’s not boring if you have a routine and connections to hang out with friends.”
Transitioning into a new home and family has also been relatively seamless for Felix.
“He feels like a part of my family,” said Jake. “Whenever we go on trips, games or family events he always comes with us.”
Felix agreed. “It’s very chill, I was very lucky with my family, their vibe was perfect,” he said.
Ms. Jackson became a part of the AFS club through her work with the spanish exchange program Duxbury has with a school in Madrid. To Ms. Jackson, “travel has so much to do with who you become. You learn how to develop independence and how to figure everything out on your own.”
Ms. Jackson studied abroad in Spain her sophomore year in college and she credits the year she spent abroad to being “one of the most significant experiences of [her] life.”
“I was really young,” said Ms. Jackson. “It is a life changing event. I think every student should study abroad at some point in their life… It’s so important to experience what the rest of the world has and to see things that you read about in a textbook.”
Beyond the global education and a new perspective, studying abroad gives students a community, a family, and a home in a place that was once a mere pin on a map. For Felix, his time spent in Duxbury has given him life long friends.
“Some of the seniors are very nice… especially my host family. I think we will be friends for life,” said Felix.
In the end, life in Duxbury is different than it was for Felix in Frankfort: the people, the language in which they speak, the pace of the day. With these differences come new perspectives, and that is the true magic of an education abroad. “It’s really important to have those global connections, they see the world from different perspectives,” said Ms. Jackson.
Feature Image by Felix D.