The exchange student organisation AFS is looking for queer families in Iceland to house foreign students.
“We want to increase the diversity of the families that are hosting the students,” Kristín Björnsdóttir, project manager at AFS, tells GayIceland. “One of our aims is to campaign for a more peaceful and just world and decrease prejudices.”
Every year there are 35 foreign students, between 15 and 18 years old, coming to Iceland through AFS and living with Icelandic families for 3 to 10 months. Kristín says that no queer family has ever housed one of those students and she feels it’s about time to change that.
“AFS worldwide is reaching out to other kinds of families than the traditional; mom, dad, two kids family, and part of that is trying to get queer families to host some of the students. We want to break down this image of the “normal” family and increase the diversity in the group that foreign students can choose from.”
“In our eyes queer families are just as normal as the traditional family and we think it would be a good part of broadening horizons for straight kids to live with them.”
All the students that come to Iceland through AFS are aged 15-18 years old and because of that Kristín is not willing to discuss their individual matters, but she admits that some of the students come to Iceland to be free to be themselves as many of them come from countries where being queer is not as accepted as here. “They have read about Iceland being a queer utopia and some of them want to come here to establish their identity as queer.”
Kristín emphasises that the search for queer host parents for the students is not meant to be restricted to queer families taking in queer students. “Not at all,” she says. “There are no restrictions. In our eyes queer families are just as normal as the traditional family and we think it would be a good part of broadening horizons for straight kids to live with them. We would of course do this in a collaboration with the students parents, as we always do, and if they were against it it would not happen.”
AFS in Iceland is not breaking new ground with this policy, it has been the international policy of AFS worldwide for a few years to get the queer community aboard, according to Kristín. AFS in Germany started this campaign and now most European countries are following this policy.
“It’s part of the AFS policy that by becoming one of our students you are widening your horizon and experiencing cultural diversity in every sense and living with a queer family would definitely be an expansion of the students view of the world, I think.” says Kristín.
“We think this is a really exciting policy and are looking forward to getting the queer community to work with us on helping foreign youths experience new and diverse circumstances.”
But how should queer families proceed if they are interested in housing foreign students?
“I urge them to contact our office to get all the information they need,” she says. “I think many in the queer community think that they would not be considered qualified to be host parents for foreign students, but that’s a misunderstanding. We really want to get them to work with us and house our students. We think this is a really exciting policy and are looking forward to getting the queer community to work with us on helping foreign youths experience new and diverse circumstances. It takes a village, as the saying goes, and the queer community is a big part of our village here in Iceland, so of course they should be involved.”
The AFS office is in Skipholt 50C, the telephone number is 552 5450 and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. So what are you waiting for queer community? Get in touch and get involved in this remarkable experience.