History of the American Field Service
Despite their great contribution in the winning of two world wars, I feel that the peacetime job that they have voluntarily undertaken is the most important one of all. It is one that is helping to spread the real concept of American democracy throughout the world and to create a true international understanding of our country. Carried far enough, the project . . . will be an effective agent in combating totalitarian propaganda and will help eliminate the misunderstandings that promote conflict.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
In February 1946, while AFS was still winding up its wartime activities, Mr. Galatti began to inquire whether its membership wanted AFS to continue as a permanent organization. The French Fellowships would soon be able to function again, but that was a separate establishment. If AFS were to continue, it would need housing for an office and clubrooms, and a program, as reunions, gossip sheets, and reminiscence would never serve as a firm cohesive force. Later in the year, members were asked to contribute toward a clubhouse and an endowment fund. A reunion was planned for September.
At the reunion banquet, speaking as the representative of the AFS to the British and French officials present, Mr. Galatti said:
"In the two wars they carried over one million and a half of your soldiers. They did this as volunteers, not one of whom went unthinkingly or unwillingly. Some were killed, some were wounded, and some made prisoner. What these men want me to tell you tonight is not what they did but that, in doing it, they experienced the opportunity to mingle with you, to know you, and to realize that the men of your nations are their friends---whether Australians, Indians, South Africans, Scotchmen, New Zealanders---whether privates or generals or sergeants---all the same kind of people, brothers under the skin, just as these AFSers represent the South, West, Midwest, the East---all corners of the United States.
"And so the AFS, which alone of any American group has had this rare opportunity, does not look backwards on those friendships. We look forward with this heritage that is ours and will find every means possible to further the understanding that we know exists between free men of all nations. This is why we came here tonight. This is why we asked our distinguished guests to honor us with their presence. And we hope they will send back word to their countrymen that American Field Service men, gathered here tonight, send this message:
" 'We were at your side during war because we believed in you; we will remain at your side during peace because we know that it can endure only if all of us can understand each other as we understand you.'"
The next day, the morning of 28 September 1946, about 250 of the more than 600 who were attending the reunion gathered at a meeting to decide the future of the American Field Service. After considerable discussion, it was determined that AFS should continue as a permanent organization, that it should establish a clubhouse for its members, and that it should start an exchange of scholarships with foreign countries as its first postwar project. At the same time, it was announced that the French Fellowships were again in operation and that 6 French students were already studying in the United States while 3 AFS men were studying in Paris under the revived program.
Financing the new venture was at the beginning a great problem. When AFS had become a participating member of the National War Fund, it had had to cease raising money on its own, and the money granted AFS by the National War Fund had to be used in connection with wartime activities. So there was no money in the till, as there had been in 1919, with which to start a student-exchange program. First War members of the AFS contributed handsomely to this, while the Second War members contributed to a fund for a clubhouse. C. V. S. Mitchel drew up a charter and by-laws for the American Field Service, Inc. which was necessary before it could solicit funds for its new activity. The office moved from Beaver Street up to the house at 30 East 51st Street the staff was greatly reduced, and the new AFS International Scholarships (AFSIS) got off to a very small beginning.
During the 1946-47 school year, AFS offered hospitality to some 75 foreign students then in the United States, arranging homes for them to visit in at Christmas and doing whatever else was possible to make them feel at home in this country. In March 1947, the first official Bulletin of AFS, Inc., announced the success of this initial activity "One student recently wrote 'You have helped greatly to make me feel at home in a foreign country.' Another student, who attended a dinner in Washington, said it was the first time in America he had met ant informal gathering like a student group in Holland. A Norwegian girl expressed her thanks when she wrote 'I should like to tell you how grateful I feel to be in touch with the AFS and how much I appreciate your assistance in introducing foreign students to American families. Because I am so far away from my own, I enjoy very much being invited into a home. I am happy to get an opportunity to learn the American way of living and also to talk about Norway, my own country.' This same girl is so grateful to America that she is active in getting a group of American girls together to visit Norway this summer."
In 1947-48 the American Field Service International Scholarships brought its first students to the United States---50 students from 10 countries: Czechoslovakia, Estonia, France, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Syria. The plan was to continue on the college and graduate-school level as before the war, and 22 of this first 50 were selected on this basis, some aided by scholarships arranged by former ambulance drivers. But the rest, the majority, were preparatory-school students. George Van Santvoord (SSU 8-3), then Headmaster of Hotchkiss School and President of the National Preparatory School Committee, had suggested in February 1947 that the schools of his committee were prepared to give scholarships (tuition, room, and board) to a selected group of teen-agers. The idea was that, as much good as was done by bringing the older students here still more might be accomplished by bringing the younger. As very little of this sort had been done before, no one could quite guess how it would turn out.
There were two main parts to the job the AFSIS then undertook. First and most important was to find money or scholarships for tuition, board, lodging, travel, and the miscellaneous expenses that the students themselves could not take care of. The second was to look after the younger students during their entire stay in the United States. AFS representatives met them at the dock, helped them with baggage problems, and found friendly homes for them to stay in until the beginning of the school year. Parents were notified of their children's arrival. After school began, AFS visited the students, talked with headmasters, and kept in close touch by letter both with the students and with their families, giving help or reassurance when needed. Homes were again found for the students for the vacations at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Many generous people offered free tickets to various entertainments for their use at these times, and AFS gave a Christmas party, with dancing and presents, to which all came who were not too far away
The objective was to give the young people of various nations, who had been chosen for their character as much as for intelligence, as real an understanding of America as they could get in a year. AFS wanted them to be ambassadors for their countries while they were in the United States, informing Americans about the people, customs, and ideas of their homelands. At the same time, it was felt, they would learn about America and could take this understanding back to their families and friends at home. For this reason, there was strong emphasis on the character of the students and on the quality of the American hospitality accepted for them. Close personal ties with the students, by visits and letters, were of the utmost importance in building the AFSIS into an exchange of human, living personalities rather than a clearing house for dossiers of bodies and brain mechanisms with which its only contact would be a monthly remittance. Direct understanding between individuals, which had made both wars an enriching experience for the ambulance drivers, was the keynote of the program.
Many generous people all over the country were quick to offer their hospitality to the students. One English boy, returning for a visit in 1955, told of his experience more or less as follows: He had received a letter from AFSIS before he left home. He had never heard of the organization, which had nothing to do with his scholarship grant, but it offered him assistance, hospitality, or whatever he wanted. Unbelieving, he thought to try it out on arrival in New York by saying that he would like to have dinner with a famous American author. That night he had dinner with James Ramsey Ullman (ME 9), and from then on he was, as he said, "convinced that AFS could do anything."
Most of the preparatory-school students were on the East Coast. At the end of their school year, in order to get a larger view of the United States, these 28 students went on a 24-day, 6,000-mile bus trip. At the suggestion of Elinor and Carl F. Zeigler (CM 88), the Greyhound Bus Lines donated the bus and driver for the tour, which took the students from New York to the Rockies, south through Texas to New Orleans, and then back through Washington, D. C., to New York. Hospitality along the way had for the most part been arranged in advance with generous Chambers of Commerce, former ambulance drivers, and friends of the AFS.
The bus trip surprised everybody, but no one more than the driver of the bus, Bernard Foley, who later wrote: "I thought I knew all about America. This trip, however, made me feel like a dope. It was like exploring a new country. I got a new slant on America. Some of the kids' questions and comments made me squirm in embarrassment. But much more often their remarks made me swell with pride over my country.
"We hit 22 states. They drove tractors, watched steel being made, listened to Rotary Club speeches, saw Indian dances, visited the White House. Nothing was glossed over. I know, because I broke a spring taking them through a rutty-roaded slum section of Richmond.... When we got to Chicago, I sneaked away from the crowd and spent three hours in a public library boning up with old WPA guidebooks to the different states....
"At the beginning of the trip, the 'official starter,' General Eisenhower of Columbia University urged the kids as they traveled to 'try to fit the little things into the total picture.' . . . At the Ford assembly plant in River Rouge the kids were stupefied by the way different colored parts converged onto the main assembly lines to produce cars of different colors. Red cars, blue cars, green cars, yellow cars, and black cars were all coming off the same assembly line, one every minute or so. The kids just stood gaping. Finally one of the girls said: 'What if they made a mistake and got yellow fenders on a green car?' Eric Hoek, the neat serious Dutch boy, suggested: 'Maybe that's how they got the idea to start making two-toned cars.' . . .
"The sight that really left the students bug-eyed, however, was the Swift meat-packing plant and stockyards in Chicago. Tens of thousands of carcasses move along disassembly lines. Each butcher would lop off his assigned cut of meat, and the carcass would move on until nothing was left but the rump. Sarka Sramkova, the bubbly daughter of a Czech banker, went chasing around photographing carcasses. 'No one back home will believe me if I tell them how much meat I saw unless I furnish proof,' she said....
"At a dinner in Des Moines a man asked Françoise, the pretty French girl, what she thought of the Marshall Plan. She replied: 'I do not wish to offend, but to properly discuss the Marshall Plan one should not eat for two days before.'
"The reception the kids got when they came out into the broad, open spaces of interior America made a deeper impression on them than any other single thing in the 'total picture' of America. In the East, they had gotten a cordial but prim, polite welcome. Anton called it 'European.' As they entered the Midwest, they were, to be frank, nervous. They had read in Eastern newspapers a lot about the Midwest's alleged isolationism and suspicion of 'furriners.'
"Today they are still reeling from the outpouring of friendliness and generosity that hit them in Middle America. I am, too. People in Omaha, Des Moines, and North Platte, for example, wrung their hands, seemed really tickled to see them. Furthermore, Anton told me he found more genuine interest in Europe in the Midwest than anywhere else in the country! . . .
Hospitality for a bus trip, New Carlisle, Indiana
"What startled the Europeans almost as much as the generosity was the easy-going informality and lack of 'air' of our people in authority. Cops always stopped to banter with the kids. The Mayor of New Carlisle, Indiana, horsed around with the kids and gave them a big wooden key to the town. In Europe, the kids informed me, the mayor is a man of dignity and you don't get familiar with him....
"These European kids made me feel more acutely than ever I did before how raw and young our country is. We were standing in Patrick Henry's church in Richmond. A Negro guide was talking reverently about one of our most ancient structures. I could see the kids, while polite, were bored. Afterward, the Czech, Arnost Kotyk . . . asked me seriously: 'Why do you make such a fuss over a church that's only 175 years old?' In Europe, I gathered, churches aren't even considered dry behind the pews unless they are 500 years old....
"At our farewell party in a New York apartment there were a lot of misty eyes as the kids from 7 countries had their last fling. I'm as hardboiled as the next bus driver, but it really jolted me."
Bernard Foley took the trip each year after that, Greyhound considering the tour such a success that it continued each year to donate one of the buses for the trip that gives real scope to the students' picture of America.
The following year the AFSIS program grew. The reaction to the preparatory-school experiment was such that 40 of the 83 students from 21 countries in 1948-49 were on this level. That winter, AFS bought the building at 113 East 30th Street, the International Scholarships establishing its offices in the basement. These were still the lean years, but the program was catching on. In the summer of 1949, the High School in Elkhart, Indiana, which had heard of the International Scholarship as a result of that year's bus trip, asked if it could have two foreign students the following winter. The student body raised the necessary funds, and the two foreign students lived as members of families in the community. This, too, was an experiment.
Other high schools heard of the experiment in Elkhart and were eager to enter the program in 1949-50. It worked so well that the U.S. State Department, which was already co-operating by helping to screen the applicants abroad, asked AFSIS to outline a teen-age program for Germany. After consultation, the State Department accepted the AFS scheme and under its terms 111 German students were brought to the United States in 1950-51. Of the 108 other AFSIS students that year, 82 were in preparatory and high schools. Only 26 were in colleges, and the following year that part of the program was discontinued. This was not what had been planned in 1946, but the growth had followed a need felt not only by AFS but also by the communities that were willing to sponsor the students.
The feeling was expressed by Principal C. P. Woodruff of the Elkhart Senior High School at the end of its first year in the program: "The primary purpose of this kind of project is to bring nations closer together. If we can do this in Elkhart, what would be the international effect if other schools in our nation would do the same thing? We know of no better way to demonstrate the values of the democratic way of life than to give foreign youngsters a chance to see how America lives."
For the aims of AFS, the younger age-group was certainly more appropriate. As the Institute of International Education reported:
"Persons who come to the United States as teenagers or undergraduates may adjust more easily and undergo greater changes in their attitudes as a result of the sojourn than persons who come here as graduate students already well started in a career.... There are several reasons why this kind of relationship to age and career might be expected. The younger person is probably less firmly rooted in established habits. He or she is more likely to be pursuing general studies and participating in the social life of the host country---conditions presumably leading to greater immersion in the host culture---while the older student is apt to be engrossed by more demanding specialized training. And the older person is more likely to be more firmly anchored at home to family and to professional commitments."(19)
What did the students themselves say of the experience? After returning home, one wrote:
"Now I am home and I miss you all and all the students terribly. All the time during the year, and particularly on the bus trip, there was a wonderful feeling of belonging together, of being a unit. But that was the purpose, wasn't it? When I have some of my best friends in a foreign country all over Europe as well as in dear America, I wouldn't fight against anyone in that country because it has come so near to me. And I know that I have to and want to tell everyone about my experiences. I'll do all that I can."
Mary Geerlings wrote from her home in the Netherlands:
"I hope you'll go on with the work you have done for so many years, especially at the moment while war seems to be so near and is going on in many places of the world. A good understanding between the peoples of the world is essential. People are stuffed with prejudices. I know I am myself, but still I think I lost quite a few of them by my stay in the United States. How can we have no prejudices if we don't know each other? Thanks again for the possibility you gave us to know each other better anyway. We'll not fail you."
And Paula Mathy wrote from Belgium:
"As you already know, it is only when one goes through America and lives there for a while that one realizes what a wrong idea of the United States most of the people have. They only picture Americans with a very matter-of-fact and material mind, and so they lose the best part of the American character. At school there are too many among the students who picture the American conception of life through a few bad Hollywood movies, which make any American look like any other and with not much of a personality. But as they are young they are ready to change their minds and take a part of their responsibilities in understanding the American soul better. And this is what we want to do, each in our own country. We want to help the most in showing them what really makes the American people great and happy."
Proving that they meant what they said and wrote, the students began two additional undertakings in 1949 and 1950: Our Little World and the Summer Program.
When the bus trip stopped at Malabar Farm in June 1949, Louis Bromfield selected Our Little World (offered by Billy Lefakinis) from among the titles suggested for the bus-trip newspaper. Jeanlou Piguet edited the one- and two-page paper, which was run off on a hectograph that spilled its purple ink along the remaining 4,723 miles of the trip.
"We all wish we were going with you on your tour," Mr. Bromfield wrote for the first issue, "or we wish you would all stay with us for a longer time. It was a great pleasure to know and meet you all and to find, what all of us know, that we are all brothers and sisters and that nationality really makes little difference among intelligent and cultivated people We would love to hear from you and hope that whenever you are near us you will stop in and pay us a visit."
In the following numbers, the students wrote about each other, retold their jokes, kept track of mileage and weather, and composed poems and songs. For the next two years, while in Paris at the Institute of Political Studies, Piguet continued to edit Our Little World ; quarterly, sending the copy to New York for printing and distribution. The pages of the early issues contained news of the growing number of students who had returned home, brief messages from the New York office, accounts of the experience of readjusting to life back home, stories of traveling to meet friends in other countries, and meeting of returnees as national groups. Much space was devoted to talk of world peace, additional efforts toward increasing international understanding and a running discussion on world government.
For example, Suzanne Vauchez recorded in October 1949:
"I came back from my vacation in a mountain hamlet just in time to attend the last sessions of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. These they all were, those famous men, trying to unite Europe and actually---talking too much! I suddenly thought of our European group. Why was the atmosphere so different? Did it come naturally from the fact that we met in an optimistic country and were surrounded by those friendly Yankees, while a whole ocean kept us apart from our worried native countries? It is hardly believable. Strasbourg is full of friendly people too, you know it. On the contrary, our responsibilities did not merely concern European understanding, but we also had to represent an support our own countries in front of America.
"The E.U. discussions would turn bitter; some delegates would even lose track of what the matter was. Ours kept within the limits of pleasant talks, where political matters were not shut out. Moreover everyone was welcome in our group. Nobody thought of asking whether so-and-so should not be quarantined because he (or she) was of a certain nationality. In Strasbourg they said they would give things up, but actually meant to keep them back.
"We are ready to, and did, give all we owned and took what we offered. May we keep that exchange and never see a time come when Aris breaks up with Franckie just on account of Franco-Dutch economic rivalry. Let us keep together to prove we can do better."
And a couple of issues later, Claude Ballande wrote:
"Every meal is good to gain world peace, and isn't it a wonderful ambition? We can do it by keeping friendly relations among AFS students---French, German, Ecuadorian, Italian, or Greek---and by telling around us in our own countries that we don't feel differently about Germans or Italian because we're all alike, God's creatures, on earth to love each other. We will not have a World Government today or even tomorrow, but we can bring in Europe, if not in the world, in our lifetime this sense of good understanding and co-operation. This is what a year spent the States and the AFS made me feel. Good luck to all of you. Let us go to work, right now, each of us in our own sphere, and we will see good results sooner than we think."
This spring issue of 1950 contained two other items of vital importance to show the new directions the International Scholarship program was taking. The beginnings of both the Summer Program for American teen-agers and the Summer Camp. François de Mey suggested that all AFSers in the neighboring countries meet for a few days that summer at Le Touquet-Paris Plage. The French AFS Committee announced that, through the hospitality of the French families, it had invited some American students from schools that had participated in the AFSIS program for at least two years to come to France that summer "to study the language and to learn the customs and life of the country."
This issue also contained the notice that "our American mother will soon be visiting us. She took care of us wonderfully well during our stay in the States, and now at last we are going to be able to welcome her in our respective countries.... Let us thank Mr. Galatti and the New York AFS staff who lend us Mrs. Field for a month. We'll take good care of her, don't worry!"
In 1951 the AFS Fellowships for French Universities, seeing the success of the AFS International Scholarships, voted that its annual funds be allotted to AFSIS for its French teen-agers. Since 1946, when civilian international movement was again possible and the Fellowships were resumed, there had been a slow change in this direction. In the first year of their revival, while 3 Americans had gone to the Sorbonne, a number of French students had either come to the States on its scholarships or, already here, had been assisted by it with grants-in-aid. After that, the number of Americans sent to France was not increased as was the number of French brought to the States. The number of these going to college was decreased, following the shift of emphasis in AFSIS as the value of the experience for the teen-age level was seen.
The French Fellowships at this time, as it had been before the war was administered by the Institute for International Education. AFS had always retained the final approval of the selections made, but it had had little closer contact than that with most of the scholars. However, after the war, with the renewed emphasis on direct understanding between individuals, AFS arranged hospitality during the vacations for the French students in America.
For some time the official at the Institute chiefly responsible for administering the French Fellowships was Ruth Hubbard. After the war, Miss Hubbard ran the program as a member of its Board of Directors, enriching it with her wisdom personal interest, and unflagging sympathy.
After 1951, the French Fellowships devoted its annual funds to augmenting those available to AFSIS for French teen-agers. This proved so satisfactory that in 1955 it was voted by the memberships of AFS and the French Fellowships to absorb the latter into the parent body for the greater success of the teen-age program.
All the elements of the AFSIS program had been initiated by the spring of 1950. During the following five years there was development, as returnees took an increasingly active part abroad, and there was tremendous growth. But there was no essential change in the aims or operation of the program. Mr. Galatti had organized his office into three chief divisions: George H. Edgell in charge of the selection and placement of students coming to the United States as well as of many details like baggage and insurance; Sachiye Mizuki arranging the bus trips and the selection of the Summer Program candidates as well as bringing out Our Little World (which came to rotate the editorship from country to country); and Dorothy Field looking after hospitality, correspondence with students in the United States and returned to their homes, and student welfare in general. The devotion, wisdom and tact of these three were an invaluable contribution to the success of AFSIS.
The New York office co-ordinated the national returnee committees, representatives in communities across the United States, the current scholarship holders and their American families, the summer exchanges and their European families, the bus trip hosts, and all the friends of the AFS, new and old---an enormous network of people working to help others. Thousands are touched by some aspect of the program each year. And as it continues to grow, more and more will take a part and will come to know the answer to that irritating question: "Just what is the AFS?"
The fact that the State Department knew the answer in 1950 and asked AFS to handle the larger part of its German teen-age program hastened the growth of the whole AFSIS by an incalculable amount. The State Department had already assisted AFSIS with the problem of selecting the candidates for its scholarships, offering the services of the U.S. Information Service and Embassy cultural offices personnel as liaison with foreign school systems, preliminary selection centers, and guides in the forming of local committees. Their whole-hearted cooperation from the beginning was one of the main factors making the AFSIS possible, as were their repeated gestures of confidence as the International Scholarships spread into additional countries (to a total of 25 in the winter of 1955-56).
The sudden great increase in the size of AFSIS in 1950-51, due to its joint sponsorship with the Department of State of 111 German students (over half the total for that year's program), raised the general interest of high-school superintendents and principals. With their active endorsement and participation, the program found its functioning eased and its future growth greatly facilitated. They act as advocates of the International Scholarships, all-important advisers for the selection of participants in the Summer Program, and in many cases as local representatives.
The system of local representatives, so successful from 1939 to 1945, was continued, the wartime recruiter in many localities becoming the instigator of interest in the International Scholarships. The job became complex, involving, at the most, interesting a school sufficiently so that it was willing to waive its usual fees, then finding a family willing to accept a student as one of its members, raising the funds to bring the student to America, and then watching out for his welfare during the approximately 10 months he is in the community. In large towns with several schools participating, the duties of a local representative can be so great as to require the help of one or more committees
As AFSIS spread into high schools (576 participated in 1955-56), more and more American families entered the program as hosts. They are considered as foster-families and their students generally refer to them as "Mom and Dad" and to their "American brothers and sisters" The feeling developed on both sides is usually warm and lasting. There are many cases of an American family wishing to keep the student beyond the year, which AFS cannot permit, and there are return visits to the student's home. Comments by American families run from "All that we could ever want in a son," to "A joy to have as a member of our family (the students at school chose her as football queen, which speaks for itself)," and "We continue to be more and more grateful every day for the opportunity of adding him to our household. . . We hope he's as happy being here as we are to have him." And from the student's point of view, the following from a returned boy is not unusual: "I feel a longing to talk once more to all those people who were always helpful and hospitable, especially to the Jones's who made me a member of the family."
A practical point, from the foster-parents' point of view, was raised by Mrs. Jessie L. Skala:
"People often inquire if the European young people are hard to handle. The answer is a very definite 'no.' They are no better and no worse than our own teen-agers. A kind word, a sympathetic smile, and a spark of humor go a long way in providing them with the necessary feeling of security. Patience, too, must be practiced during the first few months of their stay. It is no easy task to attempt to rationalize with our own children concerning the need of an occasional vegetable in their almost steady diet of meat, coke, milkshakes, and candy. Just try explaining that to a bright, eager-eyed, 'sweets-loving' young European. Or try to avoid the pleading in his eyes when you shut off the television set at 10 P.M. on a school night and point a rigid finger in the general direction of the bedroom Basically, people are the same the world over, and teen-agers are uncannily so."
To prove the point, another family wrote:
"We have become proud parents of Marie Touret. Nothing could be more exciting than to have Marie in our home. She has added a great spark of joy and happiness already. We hope the move will not make her feel insecure, and we shall try very hard to make her feel at home with us. Our daughter has accepted her into her way of living, and the two girls are hitting it off just fine. An American pillow-fight went on last night that was a riot. The girls thoroughly enjoyed it, and so did Mrs. Halvorsen and myself. We have learned so much already about France that the experience has paid off in knowledge. We appreciate this opportunity to be a part of AFS."
Communities and schools and other organizations also felt the benefit of the students. During the year each one gives an average of 20 talks, explaining his own country and telling what he has learned of similarity and difference between his own country and the United States. These speeches are discouraged until after Christmas, in order to give the students time to get their feet firmly under them. From then on, the amount of activity depends on the individual. Kenneth Greenlaw wrote of the life of "Christina Lindh, our Swedish fosterdaughter":
"Kina is now wearing a scholarship-society pin; she is captain of her gymn class; she is a member of the senior council. She was elected congresswoman of her homeroom but had to resign because of the duties of another office. She helped greatly in choosing the nominees for summer scholarships, and now she is helping to spread the AFS word in the community and in the surrounding area....
"Our daughter Mary, who spent last summer in Kassel, Germany, is sharing many of Kina's experiences.... Burbank has been opened to AFS by a double assembly at Burroughs High School and an assembly and PTA meeting at Burbank High School in which Mary, Kina, and Berndt von Arnim played active parts.... Very recently Kina and Mary appeared before a committee of the Glendale Gateway Kiwanis Club, and the result was that the Club voted to sponsor an AFS student for the coming year. In our own high school, plans have been made for a double assembly . . . in which Kina, Mary, and Berndt will talk on the AFS program."
On their return home, the students kept on talking. Harald Smedal wrote from Norway:
"Now I am back in school, working hard I have given many talks in various classes. Once the four of us in Trondheim at spoke in the Pedagogical Society, and that was a success." From Bottrop, Germany, Margaret Jansson wrote: "Besides the speeches I have made, I am going to write a report for my school, which asked me to do so. It will take some of my Christmas vacation, but it will be worth while."
One of the most thoughtful letters was that of Isolde Schock, who wrote to her foster-family: "Though I was not writing sooner, I have not been forgetting the AFS, America, and all the experiences during my year there. In fact, this is impossible, in all my life, whatever may happen. I am not guarding my experience for myself alone, as you called it. Dozens of people I am telling of your country and people. Everybody is so interested and asks me lots of questions. We have had several parties, so that I always could tell it to several people at one time and show them all my pictures. For the local paper I have been writing a long report, which is printed in continuations. Besides, I am invited by two schools to give speeches.
"At first, when I came back to Germany, I thought I never could live here again, in these narrow streets, among ruins, and with everything seeming so small and old fashioned. Even the people did not seem so nice and friendly. When I complained about it, I was asked if I did not know what they went through in all the years of war and that it is no wonder if they are run down with their nerves. But never before had I noticed that you can see such things on people's faces until now when I see the difference. My first thoughts were: back to your country as soon as possible. And it is not that I have changed my mind now. I shall use any chance to go back later. Because I know first I have a task here. I have to use what I learned for the people here. It probably may not be great things I do, but it must help the better understanding between our two countries."
Back in their homelands, the students did all this, and then they did something better. They started the Summer Program. France, which in 1950 had the largest number of returned students as well as a number of older interested parties (including a large number of resident ambulanciers), had formed a returnee committee which placed 9 Americans for the summer vacations in French homes where they were made members of the family. The following year, 24 Americans from participating high schools, chosen by the same standards as the foreign students, spent their summer in homes in 7 European countries.
During the winter of 1951-52, the earliest possible, the German returnees organized themselves and determined to make the summer program their special project. In 1952 they placed 54 American teenagers m German families for the summer, and between then and 1955 when 14 countries were participating in the Summer Program, they accounted each year for over half of the total program. The returnees who have come to take an increasingly large part in the work, originated and ran the European part of the Summer Program---a great tribute to their energy and generosity. Also to their persuasiveness, particularly in Germany, in some parts of which there was reluctance to accept the idea of having an American in the home. However, once begun, the Summer Program was assisted by all levels of foreign governments, some voting funds from state or municipal treasuries to welcome or to entertain their American guests, and all facilitating the exchange in every possible way.
Again the emphasis was on understanding---not through tourism but intimately as a result of living as a member of a family for from 6 to 8 weeks and doing whatever that family would then ordinarily do. At the end of the summer, each group gathers together for a few days in Paris before returning home, usually arriving just in time to start their senior year of high school.
"A bolt on the boat coming back summed it up," one wrote for his school paper: " 'When we were going, we didn't believe we were going. When we were there, we couldn't believe we were there. And now that we are returning, it was so wonderful we can hardly believe we've been.' That is the way we feel.... The greatest experience of my life! I certainly wouldn't trade this past summer for anything I have ever had."
The best possibilities of the summer exchange are shown in a letter from Hans-Werner Baumann of Kassel, Germany:
"while our AFS kid, Ellie Dorfman from Newton, Mass., is still on her way home, we as the holiday parents want to give you a short report about her being here.... First we have to say that we had a very fine time with Ellie. From the very first beginning, she lived in our family quite as one of our children.... Her active interest in all our living, her frankness, good humor, and willingness made it easy for us to accept her with all heartiness.... To be sure, 8 weeks are much too short a time to get a real conception of the life of a foreign country. It is just enough to clear the grossest prejudices on both sides and to give a view of the leading outlines. But we think that Ellie, being so ready to study and to learn, gained at least a vivid impression of our life that will help her to understand, though she expressed that she left us with less positiveness of judgment than she had coming here.
"As to ourselves, we learned very much about America and the American kids. And we, too, had to give up many prejudgments we had formed in the first years after the war. So far, AFS program was a full success. To be sure, we were lucky picking just Ellie, who was so very well fitted to our family. But studying very carefully all instructions AFS gave to its kids, we got the impression that this program, into comparison to other international exchange programs we have experienced, is particularly clear in its intentions and its ways of realizing them, very considerate in selecting the suitable people for it and in preparing them for their task. No wonder that it is most effective. Perhaps in this connection we as Germans may thank the AFS especially for the stress you put on the respect of the AFS kids for our German customs and usages. It is this the best way of opening the hearts."
From Berlin, Mary Sherman wrote:
"I did not know what it was like to feel a boat move, or eat while at sea. I didn't even know what: it was like being seasick! Now I have experienced all these things as well as millions of other things that all have become a part of my European summer.... All of us have read about Europe in textbooks---about mountains, about 'Gay Paris,' and about war. But there are certain things a textbook can't describe---such as the friendly handshake of the returnees in Paris and Frankfurt, the first glimpse of the shady streets of Paris, the red roofs of Berlin, or even the feeling we all felt when we first saw the result of the war in the form of a bombed building on the French coast as we sailed into Le Havre.... I have written my own textbook on Berlin, but it is a textbook of experiences, friends I have made, and things I have learned.... Where else could three American students make a broadcast into the Eastern Sector and talk to refugees from the Soviet Zone? Where else could we witness communist riots or learn first-hand about the war? . . . Every day I learn a new word, a new custom, and make a closer friendship. It is going to be as hard to leave Berlin as it was to leave high school."
A year and a half later, the same girl wrote from her home:
"I knew that what I had learned in Berlin the summer of 1952 had influenced me, but not until this summer did I realize how much. Not only did AFS change my whole life, I have suddenly discovered that instead of fading away to the past the Field Service only means more to me than ever.... I was lucky enough to meet 4 of the 7 buses that came through Washington. With some of them it was only a brief visit for lunch or dinner, but even in those short hours I was learning again the depth of the Field Service.
"When I met the first bus from New England last July, I suddenly began to see again the reason for AFS. Talking to teen-agers from Germany and Finland, Austria and France, brought back fond memories of last summer. Just chatting with Berliners made it seem as if I were right there. But even better, I now had the chance to reciprocate. Here I could greet them and show them Washington the way returnees in Paris and Frankfurt had greeted us. And the world seems so small. No matter who I met on those 4 buses, we had mutual friends somewhere. Sometimes these friends were fellow American summer students who had been hosts to these kids; sometimes they were German returnees who I had met on a station platform; or they were foster-sisters, Sachi, the Arosa Kulm. From our Field Service pins to our speech-making, we had everything in common.
"Our old friends are constantly turning up.... When you see a boy get off a bus that you had dated 10 months before and 4,000 miles away, you can't help but marvel. When a French girl runs up to you and says: 'Mary, how are you? Remember me from the Arosa ?' or a Berlin girl gets off a bus and says: 'I remember you from a briefing meeting in Wannsee, Berlin,' then the world becomes my own back yard. . . . All this proved to me that I cannot just forget AFS as a summer experience. As I saw the last bus off to Garden City, I knew I had gained far more from them than I had ever suspected.... I am returning to Stanford to start on my major in International Relations. This is the field I am really interested in, as AFS has shown me."
Welcome in Amsterdam
The returnees working in Europe on the program feel strongly about what they are doing, as Rita Economides wrote in Efharistos, the book put out by the summer exchangees in Greece:
"Watching people come and go, hearing their comments, reading their letters, handling their applications---four years of that! One would think I am all fed up by now. On the contrary, each one of you in our two-sided program acts as a stimulant, keeping alive the interest we older returnees have for AFS work. With each kid leaving for the States, I seem to be returning there too; and when trying to encourage him and to explain about his one-year stay there, I seem to be going over my own unforgettable experience. Moreover, every one of you helps each summer to 'dust off' the picture of the States which remains hidden in my memory....
"My aim is to transfer to you all my enthusiasm and belief in the work of our AFS. Yes, our AFS! Whether you have realized it fully yet or not, you have come to belong to our large international family. And if you don't think that this world-scattered huge group that we are can be called a family, just come to one of our returnee reunions or summer camp in Europe, read Our Little World, or simply look up some of the people whose names you may find in our directory whenever you happen to be traveling around. You will be amazed at the friendliness and understanding you will find in a total stranger from the moment you introduce yourself as an AFSer.
"Is this really so because we human beings are basically very much alike once you scratch off the surface of tradition, customs, and prejudice? And if the answer to this question is 'yes,' then how come other people have not arrived at this conclusion too? What part does the AFS play here? Nothing more than making us realize what we are---suggesting the truth and letting us find out for ourselves."
The participants in each program event through the greater part of their experiences as single individuals, and probably no two had exactly similar experiences in either Europe or the United States. Yet the basic similarities of these experiences could not become evident to the students unless they were brought together and given a chance to discuss their months in the United States or Europe. So individuals scattered over large areas are brought together as groups whenever possible during the course of the two programs.
That the bus trip served this purpose, and others as well, is shown by a letter from Barbara Gurr after her return to Berlin:
"One of the most; interesting and most wonderful things of this year was the bus trip. . . Everything we saw made a deep impression upon me. But the best experience of the whole trip was that all the people on the bus from many different nations could live together, talk, sing, and have fun together without even remembering that some of our native countries had war with one another only a few years ago. We were just one big happy family."
President Eisenhower greets AFS students in the
Rose Garden of the White House, July 1955
The days between the end of the bus trips (12 buses in 1955) ad the students' return to their homes, the boat trips, the Paris gathering for the summer exchangees, and the Christmas parties also served to mix up nationalities and to create a feeling of belonging to a group. That there was a need for this even among the returnees was shown at their inauguration of the Summer Camps. The first of these was held at Le Touquet-Paris Plage in 1950. After that, the two-week get-togethers; (sometimes aided by grants from the government of the host countries) were held successfully at Titisee (Germany), Terschelling (The Netherlands), Essen (Germany), Sallanches (France), and Solemoa (Norway). Up to a hundred AFSers and their friends attend part or all of these camps. As Jeanlou Piguet wrote after an early one: "These camps are the best link we have to keep all of us AFS returnees together, no matter what year we are and what country we come from."
Karen M. Nielsen wrote of the Summer Camp at Sallanches:
"From the camp itself, which was a picturesque old farm, you had a beautiful view, down a fruitful valley locked up by mountains, of Mont Blanc. Remember when the sparkling rose-red snow lay bathed in the last sunbeams? As you can imagine, these landscapes invited numberless walks and exciting mountain climbing. Never in so short a time have so many pairs of shoes been worn out and ruined. But who cared about shoes when shy cyclamens and twinkling cascades were awaiting to be discovered. When finally your feet were so covered with blisters that you could hardly drag yourself along, when your eyes were red and watering, in short when you were aching all over, you could one morning go to 'Mont Blanc-Plage' and exhausted---remember it was a walk of 7 kilometers---throw yourself on the beach and stay there for the rest of the day, perhaps with the exception of a few minutes swimming in the refreshing, cool, bluish-green water. But you would, I am sure, leave it to the more energetic members of the camp to play volley ball, ping pong, or miniature golf....
"A couple of times a week about twenty people would go by bus to some specially interesting and beautiful place and stay there for the whole day. Just think of the trips to Chamonix, where we went into the blue grotto in Glace de la Mer, or the one to Les Houches, where we took the 'téléférique' and the mountain railway and finally climbed to a height of more than three kilometers. Or remember the day in Annecy, or the visit to La Chapelle de l'Immaculée....
"However, the bright and sparkling culmination of our camp was not a bus excursion. No. The third of August was the climax! On that day Mr. Galatti and Sachi arrived. How wonderful it was to see them both again, and perhaps for the first time we fully realized how much our summer camp means not only to ourselves but to the AFS program as a whole. Mr. Galatti really made us feel that our year in the U.S. is not at an end yet; there is still work to be done, lots of work, and every one of us is needed, not as passively sanctioning but as actively striving members of . . . our AFS."
The Summer Camps, as well as most of the work on the Summer Program, were handled by Returnee Student Committees. As the student passed beyond being a teen-ager, the richness of the AFSIS experience took on an increasing power. In 1955 the more than 1,600 returnees were taking charge of an ever-growing amount. In Germany and New Zealand the returnees were doing the job of selecting applicants for the regular winter program; in Finland, Italy, and Spain they formed an essential part of the selection apparatus; and other countries were taking on more and more responsibility. The problems as well as the accomplishments of the returnee committees were discussed at annual three-day conferences of the committee chairmen. Their vitality and interest can be gauged by excerpts from George Edgell's report on the Vienna Conference (19-22 January 1956), which was also attended by Mr. Galatti and Miss Mizuki:
"Each country sent two delegates, totaling 28 in all, with additional observers among the Austrian returnees living in or near Vienna. The occasion had been very well organized by the Austrian Returnee Committee, Harold Lang, Chairman. Delegates were housed in a youth hostel in Vienna, which also provided an auditorium for the discussions. In addition, sightseeing was arranged and the delegates were received by the Lord Mayor of Vienna....
"The organization of returnee committees proved to have tightened and solidified markedly. Finland, for instance, has formed an Executive Committee, made up of those who have taken the most responsibility for returnee activities, added to from each year's new homecoming group, from which each year the Finnish Chairman is selected. This is one of the older students, who must have served on the committee for two or three years before being elected. Italy, also, has formed a new and well-organized committee machinery. Examples of these were taken back home by other delegates as suggestions for improving their own organizations.
"Most noticeable of all was the increased direction and purpose delegates showed in comparison with conferences in previous years. The atmosphere was more business-like, though no less enthusiastic. The beginnings of a solid, permanent, and effective organization in these countries was very evident.
"Mr. Gerald Schwab, the Cultural Attaché of the American Embassy in Vienna, stated that this meeting was one of the best he has ever attended and that he was very impressed by the standard and interest displayed by all the participants."
After eight years of the American Field Service International Scholarships, it would seem legitimate to ask whether the program were succeeding. The aim of introducing students to the American way of life, of learning from them of their homelands, and of sending them back to, explain America as they had seen it might have seemed impossible, or at least as overly ambitious. But every indication was that the program had succeeded. And this was not a success for the American Field Service alone, but also for all those connected with the American Field Service and, ultimately, for America.
The American Field Service would like to associate itself with the following words of Edward Fujii, exchange student from Japan, spoken at the 19th Annual Convention of the National Association of Student Councils:
"We have seen generosity in many forms: deep generosity, self-sacrificing generosity, generosity that expects no return. We have seen it in the American Field Service . . . representatives and in her sponsors--- their generosity has meant the fulfillment of the dreams of hundreds of students from all over the world.
"This generosity has been the opportunity whereby these foreign students have been able to see America at first hand in its greatness, its goodness, and its generosity. It has meant seeing at first hand her famous places and landmarks. It has meant meeting her friendly people, rubbing elbows with democracy. It has meant the sharing and comparing of experiences, the exchanging of thoughts and ideas. It has meant the making of new friends, the giving and receiving of affection. It has meant the building of memories which will last a lifetime. And it has meant to hundreds of foreign students all of these things and others too numerous to mention. And the AFS with the aid of many generous people (which includes the very positive aid and friendship of student councils all over the country) has been the fountain head from which all these things spring.
"We have seen with our hearts' eyes the flowering of friendship. We have been offered the friendship of American students and teachers, and have profited by their kindness and consideration. We have felt the friendliness of the cop on the comer, the clerk behind the counter, and the spendthrift generosity of people from all walks of life. We have made many friends who will stay vivid to us as long as the eyes of our hearts can see.
"I know these things to be true because they are happening through me, with me, and in me. I believe the greatest of all generosities is that of tolerance, which enables us to see things from another person's viewpoint, which concerns to that person the right to his own opinions and peculiarities.
"You Americans have shown this generosity by accepting us exchange students even though we are from foreign countries, by offering us friendship even though our opinions and ways of life may be different, by giving of yourselves as people of good will and people who live in democracy. You are fulfilling the precept: 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.'"