By Guest Blogger Stephanie Gress, Community Advisor, Borderless Friends Forever
As we begin to come out of the pandemic and a year of the world shutting down, we are able to reflect on how the past year has impacted everyone and can finally begin to enjoy the things we’ve missed. One of the areas that was hard hit by the pandemic were exchange programs for students wishing to study in the United States. The Department of State made the difficult decision last year to suspend programs for high school students coming into the US. One of the organizations directly impacted was Borderless Friends Forever, a non-profit organization based in North Carolina. BFF, accredited by CSIET, the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, provides students from a variety of countries the opportunity to fulfill a dream of living and learning in the US.
We had a large number of students slated to come to the United States for the 2020-2021 school year and unfortunately that dream was put on hold. However, for the upcoming school year, Alamance and Forsyth Counties have agreed to accept exchange students again. This is another sign that our world is opening up again and we can reconnect.
The goal of BFF is to promote world peace through educational exchanges. Each student is matched up with a family and a high school across the United States. While in the US, the students are supported by a network of community advisors through Borderless Friends Forever. Host families do not have to fit a certain mold. Our host families can consist of 2 parents with kids living at home, empty nesters, single parents, LGBTQ families, grandparents. Our goal is to find a loving home for these students, regardless of the makeup of that family. We currently have almost 100 students who have applied and been accepted into the program and are waiting on an American family to say yes, we will welcome you into our home. These students are exceptional. They are smart, courageous and eager to learn about the way we live.
I want to share with you a testimonial from one of our past host families…
“We got the son we never knew we wanted. Our family was not looking to host a student, but BFF reached out to our daughter’s rowing club and changed our lives forever. We were nervous to have someone else in our little family, but it has been an amazing experience on various levels. Our only child (16-year-old daughter) got a brother, and we got a son. It has truly warmed my heart to watch their relationship develop.
They have become both close friends, and siblings – each other’s confidants and annoyers. Our daily lives have been enriched with his culture through food and customs, and we’ve loved sharing ours with him.
Hosting a student has also encouraged us to explore our local surroundings, which has lead to the discovery of new places and things we have previously missed. It has been pure joy to see our student flourish, make American friends, and have unique experiences, which will hopefully be with him forever. The kids that come to the US with BFF are brave and outgoing and are eager to be a part of American culture. Our family received a priceless gift with our BFF student, and he will forever be a part of our family.” Tami, Dick, and Skyler
The rewards of hosting an exchange student last for a lifetime. They broaden our horizons and create lasting friendships. They teach us and our own children that the world is a better place when we open our hearts and unite. Not to mention, the added bonus of having a place to visit after your student returns home! I am hopeful that these students will be able to fulfill their “American Dream”. Many of these students have been waiting since last year to have this opportunity. If you would consider hosting a student for the upcoming school year, or would just like more information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the student profiles at www.borderlessfriends.org.
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