As students a part of the study abroad program known as AFS Intercultural Learning USA (formerly American Field Service), Paticha or “Pie,” from Thailand and Dario, from Italy, are residing in Boardman with host father Brad Smith.
For over 60 years, the AFS has afforded students like Paticha and Dario opportunities to not only further their educations but also to hone their skills in another language and gain firsthand experience with different cultures.
According to a communication, every year, the AFS sends more than 1,400 U.S. students to 40 countries and accepts 2,500 international high school students into the United States.
As one of the participating international students, Dario said that his first impression of the U.S. when arriving with AFS was that it’s quite different from Italy, both culturally and educationally.
“Here, in tests, usually you have to fill in the blank or just maybe link the terms and in Italy, they always give you questions and you have to reply with 10 or 12 lines of writing,” Dario said.
Dario also added that the breadth of studying here is much different when compared to Italy and finds the less strenuous approach to learning relaxing.
“In Italy, when you have a test, it’s like a hundred pages to study and here it’s like one or two pages,” Dario said.
Although this is her first time in the United States, Paticha said that her school in Bangkok is an international one where she has been taught in English since the fourth grade. She said that the grading and teaching system at Boardman is comparable to her country’s school; if she earns an A here, then it will be an A in Bangkok.
While Dario acknowledges the differences in the curriculum, he has also observed and enjoyed the fact that students can pick their own class schedule at Boardman High School. Dario said that in Italy, students have a more predetermined and unchangeable class schedule.
Paticha said that she joined AFS for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet people from different countries and because it’s fulfilled her love of travel.
Terri Windsor of Poland, host mother to international student Valentin Wett of Austria, and Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties' AFS coordinator is no stranger to AFS.
A former AFS student, Windsor studied in Norway in 1979. After posting in an AFS forum about how she reconnected with her host family in Norway, Windsor was contacted by AFS to see if she wanted to host a student or group at her home.
Based upon her positive experiences in the program, Windsor said yes and since last October, has had the opportunity to host students from different countries.
Windsor said that her favorite part about hosting students is that she gets to learn about their cultures and languages.
“There’s families that get involved in this and they’ll retain this for years and years,” Windsor said.
Additionally, Dario and Paticha have discovered that before participating in AFS, they often overlooked their home country’s positive traits and now appreciate their countries more.
Along with getting more perspective with their countries, Dario and Paticha have also said that their experience with AFS has made them learn more things about themselves.
“When you go alone to another country and you have to do a lot of things by yourself, you become a lot more mature,” Dario said.
While away from their countries until June, Dario and Paticha keep in close contact with their families.
Paticha said that she uses Skype, a webcam-based video call program and Dario said that he talks to his family at least once every other week.
Windsor expressed that she is always looking for students and families to participate in AFS and those who are interested can contact her at terri.Windsor@afsusa.org'>terri.Windsor@afsusa.org or 330-531-3070.
Photo special to the Town Crier
AFS Intercultural Learning USA students staying in Mahoning County this fall include: Nicolas Salvivia Heinz from Chile, staying with Marney Broderick and her son, Michael of Canfield and attending Heartland Christian High School; Dario Scanferlato of Italy, staying with Brad Smith of Boardman and attending Boardman High School; Valentin Wett of Austria, staying with Terri Windsor and her family of Poland and attending New Springfield High School; Catalina Rodriguez of Chile, staying with Bob and Chris Gabrick and their children, Sarah and Josh in New Springfield, and attending New Springfield High School; and Paticha 'Pie' Areepipatkul of Thailand, staying with Brad Smith of Boardman and attending Boardman High School.