As families gather together to celebrate the holidays, the Lopez/Foundas family reminds us that family can be anything you make it. In August, the Kailua family welcomed Romane Mossa, a 17-year-old exchange student from France, into their home to spend the entire school year with them.
Julianna Lopez and Jeffery Foundas and their children 15-year-old Sari Foundas and 11-year-old Nikos Foundas found Mossa through AFS Intercultural Programs, a nonprofit that offers exchanges in more than 50 countries. The mission of AFS is to provide international experience to students and families in order to promote peaceful intercultural relations. The U.S. hosts about 2,500 high school exchange students each year through AFS, thanks to volunteers like the Lopez/Foundas family.
In accordance with the AFS mission, Lopez says that their experience as a host family has yielded a symbiotic intercultural learning opportunity.
“She has been learning a lot from us, and we are learning a lot from her,” Lopez says. “We have all been learning that there are different ways of doing things and that we all need to be aware of that. I think we also are learning there are more similarities than differences between cultures.”
Plus, Lopez says, Mossa has been participating in various new activities. “I think she has been able to do a lot of things that she might not have had the opportunity to do otherwise,” Lopez explains. “We got her into soccer ... And Romane really liked that because she says that not many girls play soccer in her town. We have also encouraged her to get into singing.”
Lopez says that Mossa has truly become a part of the family. They eat dinner together and go to church together. For Thanksgiving, they all visited the Big Island. The family is currently gearing up for a vacation to a number of West Coast cities.
“She is really quite wonderful, and it is a joy having her here,” Lopez says of Mossa. “The best part is seeing the friendship develop between my daughter and my AFS daughter. They laugh and talk and share things ... They have developed such a close friendship.
“I am just hoping that ... Romane will be close to our family forever, and it looks like it will be that way.”
For more information about AFS or to apply to host a student, visit afs.org.
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