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 Marilyn, who runs a cluster in Montana, about her experience working with exchange students and host families.
Meet Marilyn, AYA Local Coordinator for Montana:
What’s the best part of being a Local Coordinator?
Marilyn: The best part of being a Local Coordinator is getting to know all of the students that I bring here and meeting new families, getting acquainted with them, and just bringing the world together. Coming together for the national meetings once a year to meet the staff people that I work with really enriches my life. I’m just really thankful and blessed to be a part of it.
What makes working with AYA special?
Marilyn: I love the idea of foreign relations—getting to know people from other countries and bringing them here to learn about our cultures. I love people in general, including the people that I work with at the Aya staff. It’s really helped me grow in my own personal life, broadening my horizons in a way that I never thought would ever be possible. I’m a better person today because of it.
How do your students get involved in the community?
Marilyn: Well, that’s through a group effort, through the effort of the post families. The families I have now are quite involved with the communities, and the schools are very receptive to the students. They want the experience for the students to be enriching, just as they want the American students to be enriched. There are all kinds of different programs that the schools have that involve the communities.
What’s your favorite part about attending a National Meeting?
Marilyn: What’s my favorite part of coming to the national meetings? Well, I love getting to see the people that I work with, the AYA staff people because I’ve communicated with them through email and phone calls. Just being able to have that face-to-face contact with them is really very special. I find the meetings themselves very valuable. It helps to better me as a coordinator. It’s really important for me to be the best that I can possibly be as a coordinator, even though I’ve been doing it a long time. I feel like I gain value from the topics that are discussed. It’s exciting for me to be able to share what I’m doing with my students, and it’s just a wonderful way to help us enrich our experience and help bring the world together.
What is the biggest benefit to international education and exchange week?
Marilyn: The most rewarding part of my journey of working with the exchange program has been meeting the people, developing great relationships with the exchange students that I bring here, learning about their cultures. The relationships I have with students that I personally hosted a long time ago, I still keep in contact with today. I’ve had lots of families who have hosted students, and they’ve gone abroad to spend time learning about their cultures and spend time with their families. It’s just exciting to see that actual cultural exchange.
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 Marilyn 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.