Pay it Forward.....Even If It’s 30+ Years Later!!
July 22, 2021 17:53

During the summer of 1989, I lived with the Busto Sanfurgo family (Arturo, María Elena, Rodrigo and Loreto) as an exchange student in Spain. It was an unforgettable experience of cultural immersion. Not only did they accept me into their home and family, they took the time to show me beautiful places, and share their Spanish culture and delicious food. 

I was completely immersed in speaking Spanish and came back so much more proficient than when I left. The Busto Sanfurgo family treated me as their own and made me feel so welcome. I am forever grateful to my host family for their love and generosity. From the exchange experience, I grew to be more independent, to have a love of Spanish people and culture. I learned a lot about myself as a person and came out of my 16-year old shell. I credit this experience for a lot of who I am today. 

The years after returning back from Spain, I was able to remain in touch with my host family via letters, but then slowly the letters started being returned back to me. I couldn't understand why and it made me very sad to lose touch. I was certain that the experience would just be a short chapter of my life and a distant memory. Fast forward 19 years after that summer, with the help of Facebook, I was able to reconnect with my host brother Rodrigo and host sister, Loreto and through our communications I found out the family (except Rodrigo) had moved back to Chile where they are from!! Thus, the reason my letters never made it to them in Spain. I was shocked that they were in THE very place I have other close friends and also frequently visit!! In fact, the year we reconnected, I was actually going to Chile and planned to meet them again. In Sept 2008, I reunited with Loreto, my host father and host mother and it was like I had never left Spain. Except there was a new addition to the family, Loreto's daughter Camila!!

We were in a different country, different place and another time, yet it all felt so much the same!! The same love, acceptance and heartwarming sentiments of reuniting with family!! On a separate occasion, I was also able to reunite with Rodrigo in Boston and it was just like yesterday reminiscing about the fun we had during the summer of 1989.

This year marks 32 years since my summer exchange program, and I am now PAYING IT FORWARD as a volunteer with Youth for Understanding (YFU) USA -- The same organization that sponsored my exchange and made such an impact on my life. I am looking forward to helping to promote intercultural exchange for potential students and families and to ensure they have the same amazing experience I was so fortunate to have. Muchas gracias a la familia Busto Sanfurgo....Thank you to the Busto Sanfurgo family for accepting me into your home in 1989, and giving me such an amazing experience that I can now share with others 30+ years later!!

Author: Sunita YFU USA
Exchange Year: YFU Spain 1989