Aletha Stove talks about what it was like to be an AFSer of the 80s and the lifetime friendship she has made with her host sister Kelly.

In 1986 I was lucky enough to be accepted on the AFS Programme. I was matched with a family in Southern Oregon, USA. I travelled there as a nervous 17-year-old, not knowing what to expect.

My family were so welcoming. I became one of the family from the very beginning. I shared a room with my host sister Kelly. We were the same age and did everything together. Kelly had a nice group of friends who also were very welcoming.

In 1986, there was no internet. I had to write letters home and toll calls were expensive, so I did not make them very often. I did get homesick a couple of times. The best way of coping was eating the yummy soft serve chocolate ice cream from the local burger shop!!

Thanks to the internet and Facebook, I have been able to reconnect with my school friends at North Valley High School in Oregon. I was lucky enough to travel back to be a bridesmaid at Kelly’s wedding in 1993. Through Facebook and emails, we have shared our lives as we had children and they grew up.

In 2015 we hosted Katie – Kelly and Jeff’s oldest daughter. She came and lived with us for 10 months. Now my oldest son is living in Vancouver and often visits the AFS extended family in Seattle, where they now all live.

Kelly and I turned 18 together in 1987 and have recently celebrated our 50th birthdays together! (photo at top of page) Kelly and her husband Jeff visited NZ for the first time, and we had such a great time showing them our little corner of the world.

I could write a book about my AFS experience! This is a very brief article about my experience. I had the most wonderful time and this experience changed my life and gave me a bigger family and friends all over the world. I am so thankful for the opportunity given to me.

Aletha (right) and Kelly when they met

Getting ready for prom!

Matching necklaces – a birthday present from their husbands