Are you fascinated by international cultures? As an AYA Local Coordinator, you can share America with the world by helping international exchange students come to the United States to live with American families and attend American high schools.
In our “Meet an AYA Local Coordinator” series, we look at the people behind the success of our exchange students. Today we hear from AYA Local Coordinator Elizabeth, who runs a cluster in Georgia, about her experience working with exchange students and host families.
Meet Elizabeth, AYA Local Coordinator in Georgia:
What’s the best part of being a Local Coordinator?
Elizabeth: The best thing about being a Local Coordinator for me is the bond in my community. I’m able to build up my community by adding exchange students who benefit the community through community service and really bond with their host family. Seeing that connection both in the home and through the community is always amazing.
What makes working with AYA special?
Elizabeth: What makes working with AYA special is the office staff. I have never worked in a place where I felt so supported as a person, not just on a business front. Also, they’re very supportive when my father passed; they called and made sure I was okay. Having that level of commitment to self-growth as well as just feeling supported overall is not something you really get anywhere these days. So, I’m very appreciative for them.
How do your students get involved in the community?
Elizabeth: My students get involved through community by volunteering. We’ve had them volunteer at football games, at the local animal shelter. When a couple of hurricanes came through, they supported with cleanup and food drives and all sorts of things. There’s not really something that our students aren’t willing to do. Everybody is willing to pitch in in whatever way possible to support and show their appreciation for the community.
What makes a great Local Coordinator?
Elizabeth: I think what makes a great Local Coordinator is commitment and support and understanding. I think, in order to be a great Local Coordinator, you have to listen more than you talk. You have to listen to your students; you have to listen to your families because a lot of the times, they just want to feel heard. I think a lot of times, we get so busy just talking, talking, talking. The best way to be the best LC you can be is to listen.
What’s the most rewarding part about being a Local Coordinator?
Elizabeth: The thing I found most rewarding on my journey as a Local Coordinator is the way that I have built my family, which kind of sounds silly because it sounds like it more pertains to being a post family. But you get to know these kids, and they get to know you. I get updated on what they’re doing. Even on the Local Coordinator side, it’s so nice to really build that bond with these kids and see them grow into awesome young adults.
What is a National Meeting like?
Elizabeth: If you haven’t had the chance to go to a national meeting and you’re wondering what it’s like, it’s kind of like a big awesome family get-together. Everybody’s hugging each other; everybody’s excited to see each other; everybody’s brainstorming about different ways to place exchange students, and you’re always learning new things. So every year, we get new trainings, which they’re giving you information at such a digestible rate; it just makes it easier than watching a video online and meeting like-minded people. You’ll have friends that you have all over the US, which is great.
What is the biggest benefit to international education and exchange week?
Elizabeth: The biggest benefit to international education and exchange is the exchanging of ideas and exchanging of culture. The silly questions that my kids get in the beginning, like “Do you have phones from Germany?” or “Do you have cars in Germany?” or whatever, always cracks them up. But once they get past that surface level, seeing how they’re able to share really their culture and their home. We’re so lucky to have Google Maps, and they can pull up their city and show them what it actually looks like. Having kids where I live that may not ever get the opportunity to travel, being able to show them the world while they’re still living in theirs is pretty awesome.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.
Interested in becoming an AYA Local Coordinator?
AYA is looking for passionate individuals like Elizabeth across the United States. Becoming a Local Coordinator is a rewarding opportunity to build your personal and professional network by providing support to international students, host families and your own community.