Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District

Meet the AFS Exchange Students


The 2016-17 AFS Students: Royale Kodio, Hamzeh Alhawwash, Nur Natiatul ‘Sophia’ Suhaidi,  Juliette Déry, Amintou Diop and Abigail Osei.

Feb. 15, 2017 -- For nearly 60 years, Heights High families have hosted AFS foreign exchange students. The students come from Africa, North and South America, Asia and Europe and they bring a global perspective to their host families and the school. And when they return home, the students take their American and Heights experience back to their homelands.

Meet the 2016-17 AFS students at Heights High:

Hamzeh Alhawwash
Host: McPherson Family
It was so great that I was accepted into the Heights community, I appreciated that students talked to me and made me feel welcome when I first arrived. That made coming to a new school much easier. I love Little Italy, Chinese food, Chipotle and my trip to Chicago.

Juliette Déry
Host: Wright-Elonen Family
I loved playing soccer on the school team and being on the Science Olympiad team. The diversity is wonderful. My English is improving and I am learning about American culture – like the importance of football! My favorite restaurants are Five Guys and Mitchell’s Ice Cream.

Amintou Diop
Host: Bailey-Walker Family
I am so glad to have experienced snow, I have dreamed of this since I was a child. I notice that Americans are really free spirited and direct. Recently I visited the Museum of African American History in Detroit and really loved it. Thank you to Cleveland Heights High School for having me here!

Royale Kodio
Host: Thompson Family
Heights is different than my school at home, students here are more active and busy and American teenagers take control of their life and become independent at an earlier age. I have learned so much here and am seeing the world from a different perspective. Studying abroad is probably the best thing that has happened to me. Half my heart is at home and half my heart is here, in my new home. This is not a year in a life, it is a life in a year.

Abigail Osei
Host: Thompson Family
The teachers here are very friendly and helpful. They understand that I am an exchange student and ask me about my country and what it is like to see snow for the first time! I am learning to talk about my country with American students and to hear what they think about my country. Americans are loving and friendly. My favorite activities so far have been Fun ‘n Stuff and our trip to a Halloween haunted house.

Nur Natiatul ‘Sophia’ Suhaidi
Host: Bailey-Walker Family
The students and teachers here are very friendly! I am happy to have classes like ceramics and that I can play a sport here. My school back home is also very diverse with students of Chinese, Indian and Malay decent.

Heights Student Returns from Exchange in Japan

Senior Molly Fleischer spent part of her sophomore and junior year as an AFS Exchange student in Tokushima, Japan, a rural prefecture.

She arrived in her new high school with limited language skills and was the only exchange student in her school. “At first, the students were shy around me,” she said. But after several weeks, she began having basic conversations with students and classmates invited her to go places after school and hang out.

Molly lived with three host families.

“All of my host families were amazing, she said. “They helped me understand the culture and encouraged me to explore cities and small towns, eat all kinds of food and attend local festivals.”

As she traveled with her new friends and families, her language skills quickly improved.

She noticed aspects of the Japanese culture that were different from the United States. “The Japanese culture places great value on the common good and not disturbing or upsetting others,” she said. “Most people do not talk on their cell phones on the commuter trains or in public, if they have a cold they wear a mask to protect others against infection and they seldom express political opinions outside of their small social circle.”

The exchange experience was life changing. “I gained confidence and saw that if you don’t talk to people you will miss out on friendships and life,” she said. “I would tell any student who is considering an exchange year to ‘do it!’ Don’t be afraid, it will be amazing.”

After graduation, Molly plans to study linguistics and Japanese translation. She is applying to Swarthmore College (PA), Vassar College (NY), Macalester College (MN) and Temple University (PA).

AFS-USA (formerly the American Field Service) has offered international exchange programs for more than 70 years and includes programs in more than 40 countries. The AFS-USA mission is to work toward a more just and peaceful world by providing international experiences for young people.

Heights High families are currently hosting six AFS exchange students.

Students who are interested in going on an AFS exchange or families who are interested in hosting a student can contact AFS volunteer Carla Bailey.

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