AFS is one of the world’s oldest and largest foreign exchange student organizations. The mission of AFS is to bring peace to the world, one person at a time. How can you be at war with Iran, if you have friends in Iran (I do). How can bigotry develop about Muslims if you have friendships with Muslims? How can you be against Hispanics when some of the greatest people you know are South Americans?
For the school year of 1974/75, I was one of over 2,000 students selected all over the world to spend a year in a U.S. high school. In those days, only about one out of 30 or more applicants were selected to participate in what turned out to be a life-changing experience for most of us.
We all arrived in August in New York at C.W. Post College (now Long Island University) for the initial orientation, and then we were bused all over the U.S. to spend our year in high school, before we departed on July 10, 1975, from C.W. Post again.
Recently a few dedicated people started organizing a Facebook group for our year. The group now has over 600 members (not bad for 2,000 participants). After organizing and planning for a year, 30 to 40 of us met last weekend in New York City for a four-day reunion. We chartered a bus to C.W. Post to see the hallowed grounds again that first received us over 40 years ago.
Here is Paulo, kissing the ground in front of Queens Hall, one of the dorms where we first stayed a life-time ago:
We did lots of sightseeing, picnicked in Central Park, went on a boat tour around Manhattan, and ate at many good restaurants. We visited the offices of AFS International and AFS USA, both in New York City, and the presidents of both organizations addressed our group and shared in discussions about the future of the program.
Most of us had never met before. But that didn’t stop us from connecting on a deep level immediately. We all knew that we had been at the same place at C.W. Post that day when we were teenagers, we all shared the same experiences and all our lives had been massively affected by AFS. Brand-new AFS experiences and friendships are developing.
Plans for the next reunion in Turkey in 2016 are already underway.
This video sums it up very well: