AFS plans international virtual prom

Kris Long, Sports Editor

The American Foreign Exchange Club will hold a virtual prom over Zoom on May 7 for exchange students who missed their opportunity to spend their exchange visit in the United States this year. Manhattan’s chapter of AFS will join the international organizations Youth Exchange and Study, Future Leaders Exchange and AFS in organizing the event.

“I think this is kind of a unique group and we’re trying to broaden the scope,” AFS sponsor Tony Wichmann said. “A lot of students are from Africa, Asia, from countries that have a different ethnic or cultural background, and maybe different religion or language.”

AFS has two virtual exchange students this year, one from Mozambique and one from Turkey, the Wichmann hosts who will participate, AFS treasurer Hannah Loub is also expected to join in. 

The organizations will put together a package and send them to all of the students including prom-themed and America-themed items. The dance itself will involve the students showing off their clothes and introducing themselves, as well as some students sharing traditional dances from their cultures and demonstrations of dances common in the U.S.

“One thing we are responsible for is trying to show some dances like Cha-Cha or something like that,” Wichmann said. “I’m not going to do it but I’m going to help demonstrate that, either through videos or something else, and then we’re going to try to have everyone do it at the same time.”

Prom is one of the most iconic images of the American high school portrayed in the media and is one of the most anticipated events for foreign exchange students — they are often enrolled as juniors even if that isn’t the correct age group, just so they can attend — so the virtual event is an attempt to make up for one of the biggest missed experiences this year. 

“Prom is an important part of American culture and I think that it’s important just for them to experience it,” Loub said. “ I hope that [exchange students] will understand more of what it’s like to be an American high schooler.”

AFS hopes to be back to normal next year hosting exchange students and having in-person events. With numbers edging down in America and mass vaccination on the horizon this goal seems increasingly likely.

“Our expectation is that we’re going to have exchange students in the United States next year,” Wichmann said.  “Hopefully we’ll start off and continue our program in the future of having exchange students be part of our environment and our community.”