COVID-19 has changed much of what a club that focuses on travel and meeting different types of people can do, and so AFS multicultural club has had to modify its activities for this year.
Although nobody from Manhattan High was planning on going on an exchange trip this year, they did intend to have exchange students from Spain, Italy and a few other countries attend MHS. They continued to hope students would be able to attend in-person through the summer, until most countries decided that the U.S. was not safe enough to send them.
“I was supposed to be hosting an exchange student from Spain… but they aren’t sending any students this year,” Club president Dil Ranaweera said. “[Hosting an exchange student] is really something I’ve been wanting to do ever since my brother hosted when he was in high school, and I just really wanted somebody who really wanted to learn the culture as well as improve their English.”
While no students are currently traveling to the U.S, if conditions improve some may be able to come over at semester. This limits the places where students can come from, however, because coming at semester doesn’t work for all countries’ academic schedules.
In the meantime, AFS is Zooming with some exchange students from Germany and Spain.
“All officers came in so we had a discussion with them and so forth about [their] experience,” club sponsor Tony Wichmann said. “[They] gave us [a] little bit of background about their countries.”
Ranaweera hopes to host an exchange student from North Macedonia.
“I’ve been Zooming with him lately and it’s been going well,” Ranaweera said. “A couple of things I’ve learned is that there’s a lot of stereotypes as he had that he’s learned about American culture, and that some of them are relatively true and some of them are relatively exaggerated… I’ve been trying to get through to him that it’s a little bit different, there’s nuance here. And it’s just really interesting to see how he perceives America through mass media.”
AFS is also partnering with the Kansas State University Multicultural Center this year. They intend to participate in some of their events via Zoom as virtuals ones aren’t feasible, and partner with them for regional exchanges in the future.
AFS still has it’s annual ice cream social coming up soon, and encourages anyone to attend.
“You’ll get to meet a lot of our past exchange students and they can talk about how their American experience in our country has impacted their lives,” Ranaweera said. “I think it’ll be really interesting just to show up and see.”