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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone interested in other hosting opportunities should click here.
(“06880” truly is “Where Westport meets the world.” To support this blog, please click here.)