Studying Abroad Success

AFS Students’ Life After Parker

You step off a plane, look around at new unfamiliar views, and hear a somewhat familiar language that isn’t your own. You are then greeted by a new family and set up to attend a new school. Every year this experience is what an American Field Service (AFS) student faces when they land in Chicago. 

They are placed with one of Parker’s families and often rotate through multiple families over the course of the year. “When students return from an AFS exchange, moreover, they are excited by what they’ve discovered—about the world and themselves,” said the AFS-USA website. What does this mean for Parker’s very own AFS students when they return home? How does it affect their own lives after the experience is over? 

Each year a Parker Upper School family hosts a year-long Parker Upper School student from another country. They share a house, a school, a city, and many experiences with this highschooler.

Community members around Parker take various roles that involve the AFS students. “I became the AFS faculty liaison probably I would say about 12 years ago,” Upper School French Teacher Lorin Pritikin said. 

Students from many countries come as AFS students to a city potentially very different than their own. “So much of how students survive and succeed into assimilation of the many different aspects of culture had a lot to do with the kind of people that sign up to participate in this kind of program to begin with,” Pritikin said. 

“A lot of the students who sign up for this from countries all over the world already have the courage to put themselves in a very difficult, stressful situation, but they don’t know how they are going to really deal with it until they are there. They have been amazing and resilient to all the challenges they have to deal with,” Pritikin said.

These students include Peeraya (Minnie) Rujjanavet, from Thailand. She has graduated from highschool. “Now, I’m a BBA freshman student at the International College in Thailand. My plan for the future is to finish my BBA degree and continued with an MBA degree,” Rujjanavet said.

Her year at Parker influenced her life back home. “I improved my English Language skills when I was at Parker, and it’s helping me in my high school and college because the subjects are all taught in English. My year at Parker impacted me in a positive way in high school because I enhanced my self-esteem which makes me more confident to go talk to the friends that I never talk with, and I also engage in more school activities.”

Muhammad (Eja) Hamid is Parker’s current AFS student, who joined the senior class for the year, 9,291 miles from home in an unfamiliar city and school. “I think my year at Parker definitely helped me because what mostly is a surprise is that a lot of kids at Parker are very expressive and vocal about their opinions, which is what I really want to bring back to Indonesia. People are very comfortable with their opinions in Indonesia, but people are just not really that vocal about it because at Parker is very active with activism,” Hamid said. 

Hamid participated in the recent climate strike along with other Parker students. “We just had the environmental strikes, which I think is very amazing for a high school student to organize that, because in Indonesia it is so rare to see students doing something like that,” Hamid said. 

Hamid will not be receiving school credits for high school in Indonesia, but he has plans for his future back home. “After my year at Parker, I hope to go back to Indonesia, and then I need to finish one more year of high school there, but after I finish my high school in Indonesia I would really like to try to apply to a lot of universities, not only in Indonesia, but right now I’m also kind of preparing to go to university in the US which I also like. I am trying to search for a lot of colleges that accept international students that give a scholarship for International students,” Hamid said. He has been fully immersed in English, a language that isn’t his mother tongue. 

“My English speaking ability has definitely been increased because when I first got here, I was still thinking in Bahasa Indonesia, my native language,” Hamid said. “But after several weeks I’ve started to think in English, and even had my first dream in English. This will definitely help me with my English classes back in Indonesia.”