Second Home By Hannah Schwarz

I knew I was on the cusp of one of life’s major moments as I passed through the arrivals door at India Gandhi Airport in 2010.  I was seventeen years old and  had  moved to Delhi as an NSLI-Y exchange student to engage in a cultural immersion and Hindi study at Amity International School, Noida.  It became clear during my first days of India’s sweltering summer that the next ten months would encompass incredible challenge, experience, and growth.  Yet I was unaware that my exchange would be the single most formative experience in my life thus far.

I came to adopt “bohot,” translating to so much, as a way to understand India during my exchange.  Everything from people’s generosity to the spectrum of realities I witnessed during my bus ride to school was overwhelming.  Living in Delhi was a sensory experience-a medley of color, aroma, masala, heat, set to an unending soundtrack of car horns.  Life became a lesson in vibrancy.  However, it was only after returning to the United States that I realized I didn’t necessarily possess the tools to understand the entirety of my experience at the time of my exchange.  I continued to unpack and reflect on those ten months for years after I left India, particularly when I went to college and explored themes related to social structure, inequality, and race.  Although my former life was years and continents away,  India stayed with me and served as a point around which I developed my worldview.  But as the potency of my days began to recede into memory, the affection I felt for my life and family in Delhi transformed into a subtle biting in my stomach.  I was second-homesick.

The first time I left India I made many promises; “Call me for shaadi,” “I will come back in four years.”  After graduating from college and some unexpected twists in life I had the opportunity to give fullness to those words and return to India.  I had been gone for six years and had sporadically kept in contact with friends and family, if at all, yet upon landing I felt the embrace of familiarity.  Delhi was not new to me, but a city as intense as Dehli may never be wholly familiar in itself.  Instead I felt an overwhelming sense of family.  Although we had spent many years away, in those first moments with my host mother, father, and sister I knew I was second-home.

These past months in India have been vastly different from my exchange.  I spent two months working in a sustainable agriculture and biodiversity internship outside Dehradun.  I rode buses to the end of the road, seeing rivers wind around mountains and whip around the contours of massive hills in pursuit of Himalayan peaks.  I spent time in Dharamsala and McCleod Ganj to attend a teaching from the Dalai Lama and even had a “bougie” clubbing experience during a night out in Goa.  I have felt such gratitude for those invigorsting moments in which I was living something I dreamed about as a child.  However the experiences and feelings that have been most affirming weren’t centered on new adventure, instead they have had everything to do with that which remained.

Returning to India and spending time with my host mother, father, and sister has been the continuance of a beautiful gesture of family.  I wouldn’t trade a moment of lounging in bed with my host-grandmother hearing her stories of various Hindu Gods and her advice regarding my (ever-distant) future in-laws, for a private audience with the Dalai Lama.  It is those experiences of connection, love, and passage of knowledge that changed me so many years ago.

I know I will continue to process in the months and years to come, much as I did after my first trip to India.   I am sure I will look back on this trip and think about the limits of my current awareness.  Yet it is this  opportunity to forever grasp, experience, and quest for more that gives India its boundlessness.  All of which is essential in the exceedingly beautiful process of discovering a place, and within that, more intimately knowing yourself.


National Pre-departure Orientation

AFS India National Event

Conducted in New Delhi- 14th June 2016


Our 2016 batch of Young ambassadors came together to attend the PDO Camp in Delhi. It was a 4 days camp in Delhi and this year where we had total of 59 students participating in the same. 40 students has been shortlisted to go to USA on YES program while 19 students to Germany, Belgium Flanders, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Canada, France, Czech Republic, Switzerland and USA on AFS program.

The orientation was conducted by 3 IND staffers along with 2 AFS-YES Alumni, Yashodhan Shende&Surbhi Bhat. The sessions focused on setting the student’s expectation from the program, AFS Rules and communication channel, Iceberg concept of culture and tips for adapting in new culture, DIVE model, Communications Styles, Journaling, Etiquettes, Indian Traditions & Religious Matters, Stereotypes & Generalizations, Learning Objectives from Participants, Budgeting and Being an ambassador.

During this orientation, sessions were done while keeping in mind the concepts of Intercultural Learning. In this orientation, new methodologies and techniques were adopted to carry out the sessions which made participants interact and take active part in group activities and energizers.

We had officials from American Center, Matthew K. Asada, First Secretary for Exchanges and Education and JP Das, Country Exchanges Advisor, Public Affairs Office, at the orientation. They interacted with the participants, shared adjustment tips and talked about the value of exchange program. We’re thankful to American Center officials for joining us.

One of the highlight of the orientation was the talent show where participants from various cities came together to showcase Indian culture and tradition. It was a successful orientation as it was a learning experience for all the participants.

YES Re-Entry Orientation

AFS India National Event

Conducted in New Delhi-18th June, 2016

Group of 37 students were welcomed at the Delhi airport on 17th June. AFS India staffers received them at the airport and the students stayed in Delhi till 20th June evening and attended a re-entry orientation.

The orientation was facilitated by AFS-IND staffers. The orientation sessions mainly focused on reflecting on their experiences, dealing with reverse cultural shock, weaving AFS experience in participants’ life, intercultural learning concepts (communications styles, DIVE, ice-berg & cultural dimensions), common challenges & solutions with the tips for re-adjustment in the family, school and society. One of the highlights of the orientation were when participants got to read Dear Me letters which they wrote a year back and also saw the Before/After presentation of how they have changed in looks. It was a great way to make them realize the change that took place over a year gap.

On 20th June, the students also had the chance to meet and share their experiences with the US embassy officials at American Center. They had the chance to meet Matthew K. Asada, First Secretary for Exchanges and Education and JP Das, Country Exchanges Advisor, Public Affairs Office, Shailey Tucker, Cultural Affairs Assistant – Alumni Outreach and Programs, and official running English Language Program. The interaction with the officials made the participants realize the value of being YES Alumni and how they can use the resources that are available for them upon their return back home. The officials interacted with the participants, shared adjustment tips and talked about their responsibility as global citizen. We’re thankful to American Center officials for taking out time and meeting with the participants.

We wish the newly YES graduates good luck. We look forward to seeing them get engaged and participate in various activities. We’re thankful to the chaperone, Frank Bush, for being there and taking care of participants throughout the journey.


US Girls Scout Program

Participants in India-16th July, 2016

The first edition of US Girls Scout Program was conducted successfully from 16th -30th July. US Girls Scout Program is a 2 weeks Community Service Program that offers a unique opportunity to the participants to work at an Education Center for Street Children.

AFS India facilitated the program with an Indian non-profit and non-governmental organization named Salaam Balak Trust that provides support, care and protection to street and working children of Delhi and NCR. The main objective of this organization is to provide sensitive and caring environment to the street children, imparting knowledge and skills that would motivate them to do something meaningful in their lives, thus enabling them to be responsible citizens of the country.

The 4 participants along with their Chaperone arrived in Delhi on Saturday, 16 July 2016. During the program, they were all engaged in conducting classes for street children belonging to the below poverty section of the society. The participants prepared lessons on Basic English, Mathematics, and General Education, with a non-traditional and informal education teaching methodology along with extracurricular activities. They also conducted sessions on art and drawing. Their main focus was on making the children understand the value the education that is imparted at the center. In addition to this, the participants were given a chance to witness few colorful traits of Indian Culture, in terms of Cooking demonstration, Indian dance forms, Yoga and Heena classes.

The four participants of the program were: Elizabeth Wakefield, Emma George, Madeleine Gapusan, and Virginia Keenan. Elena Gonzalez, staff from AFS USA was Chaperone of the group.

The program also included visit to the Majestic Taj Mahal, Agra and a day tour of Delhi, national capital of India.

Girls Scout Program


“I loved our community service project; It was eye opening. I will return to America a different person. I loved the trips we went to Agra and the sights of Delhi, they were well organized and fun.”– Virginia

“My favourite was definitely working with Salaam Balak Trust. The food was good as well as the accommodation. The activities we did were also interesting, but I wish we did more and more sightseeing. Perhaps more time with the kids during the day.” Madeleine

“The program was great ! I loved my host family. They were really cool. I also liked Salaam Balak Trust. I wish there had been opportunity to play sports that are popular in India like Cricket or Field Hockey. Otherwise, I felt that this was a very informative trip because I was exposed to a lot of culture.” -Elizabeth

Principals’ Meet-2016

Organised in Jamshedpur

AFS is committed to providing intercultural learning experience that help people become agents of positive change in the world. Thus, AFS India organised Principals’ Meet for the first time in Eastern part of the Country – Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. The purpose of the event was to provide an opportunity where Jamshedpur Schools would learn & gain insights into the workings of AFS Intercultural Programs India and its various Exchanges.  The Meet focused on the exclusive benefits that the School, Students and others derive from the Intercultural Learning through International Exchanges provided by AFS India. The opportunity for Schools, AFS India and its programs were both insightful and enlightening. AFS is a 100 year old organisation and still growing, which proves that intercultural learning is need of today’s world. The Principal’s took away some useful insights and were happy to be associated with AFS. With this meet, we hope to provide intercultural learning opportunities to various schools, and look forward to having an engaging and fruitful association with all.20160707_121747

My First Month In India

Written By- Anna Zanoli

It’s been a month since I arrived.

But has it been JUST or has it been ALREADY?

Now, let me explain before I decide,

How it is to not be ready.

Well, actually, you think

you are prepared

But as soon as you open your eyes, after a wink

You’ll see things that thinking you never dared.

And it’s a shock

at first, at least. But then

Everything, in your heart you will lock,

For you like it in a way that can’t be said by the pen.

I’ve been drinking tea,

In a day twice at least!

And I have seen the sea,

And eaten food during feast.

Here people love sitting on the floor,

and share everything in a whole new way!

They wouldn’t like that much to see a closed door,

For they like to be here, there and wherever may.

Even all those letters that at first I couldn’t understand

Now with a little practice and time

are starting to make sense

Line after line Continue reading

National Arrival Orientation

For NSLI Program Participants-2016

Conducted in Delhi

The Arrival Orientation for NSLI-Y Year & Summer Intensive Program was successfully conducted in New Delhi with 22 participants, 4 AFS IND staff & also their local coordinator/counselor. The participants were from USA who arrived to India on 2nd July with their Chaperone. The focus was to prepare the participants for the expected cultural shock with realistic and unrealistic expectations as per the duration of their program. The sessions were aligned to ensure that the participants have practical tips which will help them in reducing higher expectations in order to adapt better more collaterally.

The participants were given the knowledge of the cultural specific examples of the host family setting and the host school. They were oriented on the topics of risk management & line of communication. In addition, the orientation session was undertaken clearly on AFS rules, travel & medical rules. On 3rd July evening, they departed to Indore, their host chapter by train to reach thereby the next morning to the desired destination.


National Arrival Orientation

For Year Program Participants, 2016-17

Conducted in Delhi

The National Arrival orientation was held from 5th-9th July, 2016 in New Delhi. The four-day orientation was lighted with success as 54 participants from 14 countries attended the same. These participants are currently placed in 18 different diverse chapters across the country. The focus of the orientation was to enable the participants to allow the gist of the expected reality in correlation to their expectations. On the first day, the sessions ranged from AFS Rules, Line of communication, Support system of AFS India. The orientation also had the emphasis of the AFS educational goals along with workshop on expectations. To make it special at the start, all the AFS chapters displayed their chapter stall showcasing their city’s traditions, variety of their unique background and belonging of their heritage. On 7th July, the session such as Mood Curve, School Life, My Host family, Communication style & Girls and Boys Talk, gave a light to the participants’ holistic encounter.

On 8th July, the day’s session was entirely addressed to the Iceberg concept- Indian style, risk management, chapter conversations and expected requirements of the first week in the host community. To give a personal touch, the day was concluded with a special session by Ms. Cindy Peace, who oriented about a foreigner perspective of living in India and its understanding towards culture.


At the onset to the evening, Mr. J. P. Das, Country Exchanges Advisor, from Public Affairs Office, US Embassy, graced the evening with encouragement and understanding of the vitality of choosing the exchange to India as their destination.

The last day was poised with conclusions of the previous days and evaluation of the orientation as a whole. The participants left to their respective chapters at the day’s dusk.

Meet at US Chennai Consulate

Conducted in Chennai for YES 2016 Batch

A meeting was conducted at Chennai Consulate for the YES 2016 batch students on 14 July 2016 which was attended by 3 alumni Chintan Mehta (YES’12); AishwarGunasekar and Sheren Shariff (YES’15), 2 YES 2016 students and 1 AFS Staff.  The alumni had a small (informal) talk with the YES 2016 students followed by their meeting with Ms. Andie, Acting Public Affairs Officer.  There was a briefing by the USIEF on Education system in the U.S. Students also took part in interactive quiz session and played U.S. Map puzzle game. A small visit to the American library took place before lunch. The alumni shared their experiences with the students clearing their doubts.

Meeting at Chennai Consulate

Meet at American Center

Meeting conducted in New Delhi for YES 2016 Batch

A meeting was conducted at American Center for the YES 2016 batch students on 12th July, 2016. The participation included 8 YES 2016-17 participants, 1 YES alumni, 2 AFS Staff and 4 Consulate officials. The purpose of the meet was to share some important highlights about States. The students were briefed how the Indian education differs from the international one and how they can involve in their own individual academic journey.

The consulate also asked students to make contacts during their stay and make the best use of their exchange program. Some Do’s and Dont’s were also mentioned during the talk.  The students were also requested to register themselves with the after 2-3 months upon their arrival in States in order to stay abreast with any developments.

The alumna Abhilasha Khodlan (YES’07) shared her experience with the students. The consulate officials bid good bye and gave best wishes to the students for their exchange year ahead. They also mentioned that they are looking forward to hear from the students once they are back next year. The students along with the Chaperone (RajniSinghal) left for their visa interviews in US Consulate.