Scott and Craig Bohart of Salt Lake City have an impressive list of accomplishments and honors for young men not yet 21: Boys Staters, Sterling Scholars, debaters and swimmers who went to state for East High School, National Honor Society members, listed in Who's Who Among High School Students, to name a few. But the Boharts are extremely proud of the time they spent with AFS - an acronym not widely known.
The American Field Service sponsors foreign exchange programs for high school students who maintain B averages. Not only are the students enriched by their experiences in foreign countries, but host families come to love and understand other cultures.Scott Bohart was in the seventh grade in 1981 when Costa Rican Jose Lizano joined the Bohart family for the school year. "He was really a nice guy - intelligent and a good sportsman," Bohart said during a phone interview from his dorm at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. "Jose hit it off with our whole family and was almost like a brother to me," he said.
Dr. and Mrs. William A. Bohart and their sons Scott and Craig have since been host to seven exchange students, including another yearlong AFS student from Spain, Jose Solis.
But the Boharts' experiences with the American Field Service foreign exchange program didn't end there. With a little high school German under his belt, Scott Bohart was an Austrian foreign exchange student himself for the 1987-88 school year. His brother Craig is now in Italy as an AFS foreign exchange student.
Scott thinks he made up his mind to become an AFS student when Jose Lizano stayed with the Bohart family. "I decided then that I would like a family like this that would cry when I left," he said.
Bohart believes the experience helped him adjust to college life. "When I began my freshman year in college I was a lot more mature than the rest of the guys in my dorm. I had been away from my family, and I'd had to fend for myself in a lot of situations," he said.
Living in Vienna, Austria, made a major impact on Bohart's life. "I got a feel for how the people thought, their political and social patterns and how their brains work," he said. Bohart came to love the family that hosted him in Vienna. They took him skiing in Italy and on many other excursions throughout Europe. He was able to go to Budapest, Hungary, with a friend and toured Nazi concentration camps.
"I learned how to enjoy things I first thought were weird," Bohart said. "Then I'd think, `Why don't we do this in America?' In Vienna there is a recycling station every five or six blocks for cans, old paper, even batteries. The recycling system is really working and saves a lot of money," he said.
"Crime is not a factor in Austria. You can walk down the street at 3 a.m. and not worry," Bohart said. "They don't have a drug problem either." Almost no Austrian would think of using drugs, he said.
Bohart said living in Austria gave him a different perspective about his life, his family and friends, and people in general. It even influenced his career plans. He is majoring in international relations at Vanderbilt with a minor in German.
"I would highly recommend this program, not just for the exchange students but for host families. It's a great way to find a friend, to expand your own views for the better," he said.
Sherrill Bohart, Scott and Craig's mother, feels the same. "It's amazing how well the students fit right into our family. I'm very fond of the program and the way it helps you understand other people."