Big City to Small town - no worries!

A few months ago our new AFS students arrived in the King Country all ready for an exciting year in a new place! Little did they know what lay ahead of them!

I have never experienced what these students felt, how shattered they ultimately were, coming from a huge city to a small town of 450 people

Where are the 24-hour-a-day buses/trains to the shops. There has to be somewhere bigger than this to shop surely? Where is the local movie theatre, mall, etc?

Our AFS understanding is to provide our students with new, perhaps unfamiliar experiences. It is through these experiences that our students grow to "connect lives and share cultures"

The challenge for us as support people is to maintain this goal while supporting the students through the culture shock they may experience.

So this is how life started out in Piopio in the King Country at the start of 2012 - After some discussions with the students I recognised that to understand and appreciate small communities our students needed to be involved directly with them. I spoke to some local businesses to see if I could get our students working alongside them on a regular basis.  Could they take a student on for 1 hour per week, unpaid, to help out in their shop or workplace and give the students a bit of exposure?

I wanted the students to discover for themselves what it was really like to live in a small community and experience complete strangers smiling at them, knowing who they are.

The shops were great - I ended up with more "workplaces" than I needed. This last week I found students - washing the floor in the surgery for the local Atkinson and Assoc. veterinary clinic, re-stocking shelves for PGG Wrightson, delivering products on a farm visit with the local RD1 representative, and wiping and clearing tables for the Fat Pigeon Cafe in Piopio.

In a short time our students have met some locals and have begun to establish a profile for themselves and AFS in Piopio. It is great community service too!


Julio from Chile with Rose from RD1  


Meylin from Peru with Linda from PGG Wrightson 


Hugo from Brazil with local veterinarian Richard


Marcus from Brazil at the Fat Pigeon Cafe