By: Prem Kamal Bin Radzi Raju

It all started when my wife was introduced to AFS programmes by Dato’ Haji Mohamed Radzi bin Manan, a former State Executive Councillor of Perak through AFS Perak Chapter President, Mr. Santheran.

Our first student hosting lasted for two weeks during Hari Raya Aidilfiri 2013. Julie Kohler was a volunteer from Germany and she really enjoyed her short stay during the Hari Raya celebration and our family members were very excited to have her.

Then in the year 2014, Mr. Santheran gives us a chance to host a student from Italy. Chiara Alberghini, a young and beautiful Italian girl managed to interact well with my family within a short period of time. She was very close with all my children especially my youngest son who is 3 years old. Once he even playfully invited Chiara to pray with him. My eldest daughter also found someone to talk to and to do many activities together.

After hosting Chiara, we had decided to stop participating in the AFS programme. Then, my family discovered that the house was devoid of any merriment. As such, we decided to host another student, this time from France. In 2015, we hosted Elysa Passelaigue. Elysa was a happy go lucky girl and she loved to talk. As a result, all of us got excited to learn French from her. She had a very powerful voice and could be heard in the farthest corners of the house. She was a very active person and she could speak Bahasa Malaysia fluently by the end of her programme and my children loved her.

In 2016, our family welcomed Melissa Krauthammer from Germany for a short semester programme and she quickly got along with my children especially my second son. During this year also, we sent her to a local school near Kampung Manjoi area whereby she could learn Bahasa Malaysia. Melissa really work hard and she excelled in sports at her school. She even got a chance to learn a traditional Malay dance Joget, before she left home. Melissa also had the opportunity to fast for 25 days during the month of Ramadhan and attended ‘tazkirah’ sessions in her school during that holy month.

This year 2017, we have the chance to host a Japanese student, Shizuka Watanabe and she will be with us for a year. So far, my children are able to get along well with her.

Many of our friends and relatives were under the impression that we are being paid to host a student but in reality, host families are not compensated nor compelled to host a foreign exchange student. It is wholly voluntary. Of course the hosting experience will have its ups and downs but in the end, it is worth it. Hosting has been a wonderful way to enrich our family life, add a new member to the family, forge friendships and exchange cultural insights. We create lifelong relationships which continue long past the AFS year.

Hosting an international student needs a lot of passion, patience and understanding between each other. As host parents, we must always be prepared to help them to deal with Malaysian culture, culture shock, and other issues unique to being an exchange student.

We strongly recommend Malaysian families to open your doors and your hearts to an AFS exchange student. You just need to provide for them what you would to your own child. A bed and three meals per day are a given, but also emotional support, a shoulder to cry on, advice (even when they don’t want to hear it!), some transportation, and so on. Include them in your family activities and holiday celebrations and incorporate their country’s traditions into yours.

My family would like to take this opportunity to thank AFS Malaysia especially Perak Chapter for their continuous support to us for hosting international students. We will keep on supporting AFS in all their volunteering activities and will keep on hosting students as the benefits enrich us all.

This article was originally  published  in  Budaya Beat E-magazine  .