As a nation of immigrants, the U.S. is often described as a “melting pot,” meaning that U.S. culture is a unified combination of the many cultures brought by people who were born in or came to live in the U.S. While Americans do generally share certain cultural traits, such as the value of hard work, independence and a direct style of communication, pockets of imported cultures exist in most cities. These continue to play a significant role in the daily lives of inhabitants and their values.
Note that the picture of U.S. culture presented by the entertainment industry to the world is generally an exaggerated version of what a participant may find in typical U.S. towns. Generally, participants will find less violence, less wealth, and less sexually open behavior than one might imagine from watching Hollywood movies or U.S. television programs. Participants will find, however, a country with a great variety of landscapes, climates, and lifestyles. We hope that wherever you are placed, you will discover those things that make your community a unique and wonderful place to live.
Open-mindedness, acceptance, and understanding are keys to living in a culture that shares different customs, ideas, habits, and behaviors from one’s home country. Students interested in coming to the U.S. should be able and willing to adjust their behaviors and habits when living within a new culture.
Additionally, participants must show maturity, self-confidence, and will be expected to perform as an representative of their home country while on program. They will likely be expected to help with chores in the home, follow the rules of a new surrounding, perform academically, and take part in family and community activities.
Students should expect to use their excellent communication skills and be motivated to interact with their host families, classmates, teachers, and community members. Furthermore, they will be expected to perform well academically and be capable of effectively managing their schedules in order to balance school work and extracurricular activities.
Finally, in order to have a successful AFS experience, participants and their sending families (natural families) should recognize that the U.S. is comprised of people from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, political attitudes, and family structures, and therefore must be open to living with any type of U.S. host family.
The United States is not a mono-culture country and over 50 million people speak another language in their home, Spanish being the most common language other than English. The United States is a country of immigrants and we are proud that we can offer a multi-cultural and multi-lingual experience to AFS students. Students should be prepared to be placed with a family that may speak more than one language in the home. AFS-USA believes that students with disabilities should have equal access to intercultural exchange experiences, and that their participation in these experiences universally benefits everyone. In line with this belief, students with disabilities are accorded appropriate accommodations, to participate in AFS-USA intercultural exchange programs.