The World Shrinks. So Does The Number Of Foreign Student Host Families.

More than 30 years ago, Barbara Alfinito hosted a high school exchange student. It was one of the greatest experiences of her — that is, Barbara’s — life

Four other exchange students followed. Barbara remains close with all of them.

Her daughter Andrea was 12 years old when their first student, Wyck, came from the Netherlands.

Andrea was not doing well in school. One day, Barbara overheard Wyck chastise Andrea for not doing her homework. Every night from then on, the 2 girls did homework together.

Five years later, Andrea went to Spain. She is very friendly with her host sister, to this day.

Three decades ago, “foreign exchange” programs were wildly popular. (The term is a misnomer; it’s a one-way arrangement. There is no reciprocity.)

Students from abroad were celebrities in their schools. They gave talks to civic organizations. It was considered a great honor for an American high school student to go overseas, too.

Back then, Barbara says, families competed to be hosts. Now it’s so hard to find hosts, 90 students wishing to spend a year in the US cannot do so.

Francesco Maniero

Francesco Maniero, Barbara Alfinito’s “grandson” by way of hosting a foreign student 25 years ago.

Barbara is working with Ilenia Maniero, one of her “daughters,” from Italy, to place Italian teenagers. One of them is Ilenia’s son Francesco.

She hopes to find at least one host family among “06880” readers — whether in this Zip Code or not.

“You learn a language, different customs, and expand your child’s knowledge of the world,” Barbara says. (However, having a child is not a prerequisite for hosting. All kinds of families — including single adults — can be hosts.)

“You don’t get paid in money. But you do get paid in love.”

Ilenia adds, “You live a global adventure without leaving home. You welcome someone new into your home, share your everyday lives, and grow as you get to know each other.”

Students bring with their own spending money for social and school activities, clothes and more.

With the school year already beginning, time is tight. Hosts need not commit for the whole year, Barbara notes.

Anyone interested in hosting Francesco (Barbara’s “grandson”) should contact Ilenia (+39-335-8768685; she speaks perfect Brooklynese, having learned from Barbara). She is on Facebook too (search for Ilenia Maniero).

Anyone interested in hosting another Italian student should email

Anyone interested in other hosting opportunities should click here.

(“06880” truly is “Where Westport meets the world.” To support this blog, please click here.)


3 responses to “The World Shrinks. So Does The Number Of Foreign Student Host Families.

  1. Jack Backiel

    Fifty years ago, we used to bring students over, for the summer, from Spain, in coordination with Herencia Española, on Forest Blvd. In Queens, NY. Roger Damio on Timber Lane, Nick and Jo Berardi on Bayberry Lane were two families that enjoyed hosting students from Spain. My mother actually received the highest award Spain can give to a non resident of Spain for her work. The award was the “Lazo de Dama de Isabel La Catolica” The investiture was at the University of Bridgeport, on April 9, 1975.

  2. I chaired the AFS chapter in my high school in North Haven in the 60s. While my family did not host a student, we organized dinners at private homes and activities in the community
    When I was a senior I i thought we had found perfection -a boy from Brescia Italy.. In a community that was heavily Italian this seemed perfect . Alas the north south split in Italy hindered his acceptance as most of the Italian American families were from the south snd Andre was from Lombardy in the north. Andrea worked very hard to be accepted and the fact that he was an expert “twister “ helped with the girls. Andrea and his family have been great friends of mine for 50 plus years with numerous trips here and there for us. I would urge any Westport family to seriously consider hosting a student. In todays world it is even more important to do so , I was chosen as the first exchange student to go to Europe from my school in a summer program between junior and senior years . Alas there were not enough European host families so I unhappily spent the summer at my families beach house in Fairfield instead! Don’t miss this opportunity Westporters!

  3. Ilenia Maniero

    Grazie a tutti! My facebook profile: