Montclair families host exchange students
Open your home to the world this coming school year and make a global connection: Host an AFS Exchange Student.
Each year, AFS Intercultural Programs/USA, a leading international non-profit high school student exchange for more than 60 years, welcomes 2,500 high school students from more than 90 countries into communities all across NJ.
Pich Wongpraya, an 18-year-old exchange student from Phayao, Thailand, was a foreign exchange student at Montclair High School for her senior year.
When she arrived in New Jersey, she immersed herself immediately into her American life. Her Montclair family, Tom, Alexa and Remi Riordan, welcomed her like a member of the family.
Pich immediately joined several clubs at the high school including, winter track, SVPA Play Production, Culinary Club, and International Club. Because her host sister, Remi, was a junior, Pich went on family college tours to Austin, Texas, Boston, Massachusetts, New Orleans, and Washington, DC. She also learned how to ski in Stratton, Vermont and took lessons for three days in -22 degree weather! When Pich wasn’t traveling throughout the US, she made frequent trips into New York City with her host family and other AFS friends. Pich saw her first Broadway show, Aladdin, in NYC and she thought it was “Soooo amazing!
“It’s still not easy, but my English is getting better than when I first arrived. The day after I arrived, I was telling my host mom about a movie I saw on the plane called ‘Boychore’ and she didn’t understand. I had to spell the name because the movie was really called ‘Boychoir.’ ”
“I’ve eaten a lot of ‘American’ food in Thailand, but here it is very different – it’s so much better – especially the pizza! I knew I was adapting to life in America when I folded my pizza to eat it.”
“One thing I noticed here – boys and girls can hug each other as friends, but in Thailand we don’t usually hug friends of a different gender.”
Alexa Riordan, her host mom, said: “Our daughter, Remi, got the sister she always wanted in Pich. Remi and Pich became great friends immediately, and they’ve had a fantastic time running around together throughout all our travels. Tom and I have also had a great time with Pich – she’s fun and easy and never holds it against us when we order ‘mild’ green curry in restaurants. We’re already talking about our plans to visit Pich in Thailand next summer and finally meeting her family in person!”
What about academics?
“In school in Thailand, we stay in the same room all day with the same classmates and the teachers change, but here in America we have to change class for every subject.”
“In Thailand we stay longer in school, and after school we have to go to tutoring for the college exams. The tutoring is more useful than the lesson in the school and tutoring starts freshman year and goes through senior year. It’s gets very serious when you are a senior.”
“The coolest part of the exchange year has been making friends who come from all over the world. AFS has been great because they have a lot of activities for the AFSers to get together. We went to Fairview Lake WMCA camp, ice skating in Philadelphia, and I even took a trip to California with AFS students and exchange students from other programs,” said Pich.
Host families provide a bed and meals, share their daily lives with students, and help guide and support students as they would their own children. Students come with full medical insurance and personal spending money. Families and their hosted students receive ongoing support from AFS staff and experienced, local volunteers.