Another year is added to Cambria’s association with the American Field Service international inter-high-school exchange program. The AFS program, largest in the world, had its origin in 1914 during World War I. A group of volunteers provided the French army with ambulance drivers; these drivers were given the title of American Field Service. Cambria’s connection to AFS dates back to our own Paul Squibb (Squibb House) being one of these drivers during that war.
Motivated by its involvement in World War II, the AFS established a fellowship program for exchange students from American and French universities. The high school division began in 1946 when 52 students came to the United States to continue their education. In 2008, over 7,000 students participated in this inter-cultural arrangement. Over a quarter-million people have gone abroad with AFS since 1947.
More than 68 countries are represented in this network of international exchange. Families interested in the organization have several arrangements from which to choose, as well as deciding which country is best for their student to visit. Fluency in a foreign language is not required, but is an obvious advantage. The commitment of the AFS is to help develop a worldwide community — to foster an understanding and appreciation of other cultures and societies, a goal that is always vital.
Australia is the major host for exchange students. California ranks second. Cambria has hosted at least one student a year for more than 40 years. Coast Union’s visitors this year are Dinh Nguyen Truong and Maria-Sole Scalia.
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Dinh was born in Switzerland of Vietnamese parents. When the Vietnam War broke out, his parents moved to Fribourg, Switzerland.
Maria-Sole is from Gorizia, Italy.
Maria began learning English in the first grade; Dinh waited until the seventh grade. His teacher in high school encouraged him to get involved with the AFS program, as she had done in high school. Dinh’s sister went to Germany last year and came home with enthusiasm for her experience, convincing her brother to choose a country. He chose the United States for this year.
There was a brief period of adjustment for both students. They had attended large schools in Europe and were missing their friends; they were concerned that they might not be accepted into this different, smaller social circle. Both Dinh and Maria-Sole remarked in our interviews that they found the Coast Union students very friendly and made new friends easily.
When asked “What have you enjoyed most about coming to Cambria?” Dinh smiled and said, “I went to Mexico with my host family for three weeks; that was great!” Then he added, “I love the food around here, especially Mexican food.”Dinh is heading for the banking business; he wants to work in the field of economics.
Marie-Sole has decided on a career as a pediatrician.
Dinh’s host is the Bonifacio Viveros family in Cambria.
Marie-Sole is not with the AFS program; she is sponsored by the Cambria Rotary Club and has two host families: Dennis White in Cambria and Vera Wallen in Cayucos.