The first foreigner I ever met was Jane Nelson, AFS exchange student, from Minnesota, USA. I was 10, she was 18.
My older sister brought her home to stay for the weekend. She had a book with photographs of Lake Superior. When she left, I declared “I’m going to go to America on AFS when I’m 17.”
My family humoured me for a few years.
Then at 16, I asked to apply. Went through the interview process. Then one day I came home to find the house strangely silent, my parents uncharacteristically sitting in the front lounge in the middle of the afternoon. I remember the sun streaming through.
The letter on the kitchen table was from AFS. Told me I would be going to live in Thailand for a year. Told me I would be leaving in 3 weeks.
And so, in the wink of an eye, the direction of my life changed forever.