Author: Becky Baughman

New Year, New You by Giving Back!

High school is a time for learning, growing, and understanding yourself. One way to do this is to give your time and talents to make our world a better place. Volunteering is an excellent way to make new friends, build your college resume, and help others, all while trying new things.  

If volunteering is new to you, let’s look at some opportunities where helping a few hours a week or month can make a difference for you and others.  

  • Working with students – Many schools offer opportunities to assist younger students or even peers with their homework or class subjects. You may be good at math or science and can ask your teacher if there are students who need peer tutoring, or the school librarian may be able to match you with younger students who are learning to read books.  
  • Help your school – Look for opportunities to help at your school. Your school may need help to paint a classroom, plant flowers, or organize the library. These events are usually only a few hours but can maximize the impact at your school. If cleaning is not something you want to try, ask your favorite teacher if they need any help preparing their classroom or lessons.  
  • Protect animals – Are you an animal lover? Communities in the United States value animals, and there are many organizations that allow young people to help save, protect, and care for lost, injured, or abandoned animals. Local animal rescue organizations allow volunteers to walk and feed animals. You can volunteer with community agencies that care for the environment, which protect our wildlife, like planting a butterfly garden or cleaning up trash in local parks. 
  • Help disadvantaged people – There are less fortunate people in our local communities. Volunteering your time to help prepare meals, help at an after-school program to work with kids, or create a coat drive to collect winter items that can be donated to a charity organization to distribute to people in need. Churches are a good place to find opportunities to help others. 

God has gifted you with important talents. You can expand your abilities by using them to help others. Research has shown that volunteering boosts a person’s mood and decreases depression. Also, volunteering can help you get into the college of your choice. In 2018, a survey of 264 College Admissions Officers published in Forbes magazine stated that 58% of respondents agreed that “A student’s community service experience has a positive impact on his or her acceptance to our higher education institution.” College admission departments recommend that you volunteer consistently for at least a year to show commitment to more than yourself.  

Let 2023 be the year where you give of your time to make your community a better place to live! 


Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Students, reach out to me on WeChat to tell me where you plan to volunteer!

Student of the Month


Jerry was chosen as the AHLI Student of the Month for his involvement at school and helpfulness at home. Jerry is a senior at Lititz Christian School, where he is involved in basketball, managing the volleyball team, and National Honor Society. He is also starting an internship with the Athletic Director at his school in January. We are proud of you Jerry! Keep up the great work!

Happy New Year

Are you ready to say Goodbye to 2022 and Hello to 2023? How will you celebrate the coming of the new year? Many people will have parties and participate in the tradition of watching the lighted ball drop at the stroke of midnight in New York City’s Times Square. One million people typically flood Times Square for this annual event, with 1 billion people watching it on television.  

Let’s look at how other countries ring in the new year! 

Brazil: The new year is during summertime in Brazil, so people head to the beach to celebrate. At midnight, Brazilians jump into 7 waves, making 7 wishes for the New Year. 

India: Indians in the Bombay area create an effigy of an old man and burn it at midnight, signaling the letting go of grievances in the old year and creating space for the new. 

Spain: At midnight, people eat 1 grape at each strike of the clock for a total of 12 grapes. To have a prosperous new year, all 12 grapes must be eaten by the last strike of the clock. 

Japan: People eat soba noodles and believe biting the soft noodles symbolizes breaking away from the old year. 

Colombia: On New Year’s Eve, people place 3 potatoes under their bed- one peeled, one unpeeled, and one partially peeled. At midnight, each person reaches under their bed and pulls out 1 potato…representing either financial struggle, a year of prosperity, or a mix of both. 

Denmark: Usually throwing plates at people’s doors would not be a good thing, but on New Year’s Eve, the more broken dishes you have at your doorstep, the more friends one has.  

Philippines: At the New Year celebration, 12 round fruits are served (one for each month), such as apples, plums, grapes to mirror the shape of coins.  

Greece: On New Year’s Day, you will see onions hanging from people’s front doors to symbolize growth and fertility, just as an onion sprouts on its own! 

Haiti: January 1 is also Haiti’s Independence Day, so people eat a special pumpkin stew that used to be considered a delicacy, reserved for the elite, ruling class. Sharing your stew with your neighbors is part of the tradition. 

Canada: You better like wintry weather to celebrate New Year’s in Canada. Families go ice fishing together, building heated huts and roasting the freshly caught fish on the spot. 

Here’s a funny video to ring in the New Year!

Happy New Year! 


Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Students, reach out to me on WeChat to tell me how you plan on celebrating the New Year!

Student of the Month


Steve was chosen as the AHLI Student of the Month for his growth and involvement in school.

Steve is in 9th grade at Peoria Christian School, where he is involved in soccer, basketball, and the praise band. He is always eager to help those around him. He keeps a positive attitude even through challenges. We are proud of you Steve! Keep up the great work!

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving!

Enjoy these facts about Thanksgiving! Maybe even surprise your friends and family with this trivia at the dinner table tomorrow. 

1. When was the first Thanksgiving celebrated? 

In 1621, a 3-day feast was held for 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians. History records that only 5 women were present. This celebration sealed a treaty between the two groups for the next 50 years. 

2. What food was not at the first Thanksgiving? 

Turkey! Native Americans and colonists most likely shared a meal of venison, duck, lobster, seal and goose, with sides of pumpkin and cranberries. 

3. How many turkeys are prepared and eaten each Thanksgiving? 

46 million! 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving. 22 million people will eat turkey on Christmas too. 

4. What is a Turkey Pardon? 

In 1989, President George H. Bush pardoned the first turkey before Thanksgiving at the White House, when the 50 lb. bird “looked a little nervous.” The big bird went on to live a full, long life after being excused from being on the dinner table. Every president since then has pardoned a turkey, with some being sent to live at Disney World! 

5. Do turkeys actually gobble? 

Only male turkeys make a gobble, gobble sound. Female turkeys cackle. 

6. How many calls does the Butterball Turkey Hotline receive each Thanksgiving? 

The Butterball hotline is a free phone number people can call to ask questions about how to prepare turkey. Each year, 100,000 calls are answered about how to prepare, stuff, and cook the bird. The Butterball company also now accepts text message questions as well at Thanksgiving time. 

7. Do other countries celebrate Thanksgiving? 

Yes, Canada also celebrates Thanksgiving, but it is always the second Monday in October. In the U.S., Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday in November. 

8. What is the most popular dessert to eat on Thanksgiving? 

Each year, 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten for dessert at the end of Thanksgiving dinner. 

9. What professional sport is always played on Thanksgiving? 

NFL football always has games played on this holiday. The Detroit Lions have played every Thanksgiving Day, except during World War II. In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys joined in on playing on Thanksgiving, and has played every year since then, except for 1975 and 1977. 

10. Which president made Thanksgiving a national holiday? 

President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday on October 3, 1863. Sara Hale, who wrote the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” wrote letters to presidents for 17 years requesting a National Day of Thankfulness. 

We hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Students, reach out to me on WeChat to tell me what you are looking forward to on Thanksgiving!

When Homesickness Hits Hard! 

As we approach the end of October, the exciting newness of living in America may be wearing off. Homesickness may be settling in, causing you feelings of loneliness and sadness. Homesickness is the intense feeling of missing one’s home, which can include family, culture, food, language, and even pets. It can cause anxiety and sadness because of being disconnected from the familiar.  

Longing for home is a normal part of cultural adjustment. Adapting to a new “home” does not come quickly and takes time to settle in. Learning how to cope in an unfamiliar environment is an important life skill that will be a benefit as you make moves and transitions later in life. Remember you are not alone in what you are experiencing.  

When struggling with homesickness, you will start to think about how good and comfortable your life at home was. It is easy to reflect on all the positive things you left behind when you got on that plane. Life in your new home may be different than you expected, and not as fun as you had hoped. You might be tempted to compare which culture is better. It is also easy to withdraw from others and spend time alone in your room.  

But let’s look at healthy ways to work through homesickness: 

  1. Limit the amount of time you spend talking on the phone with family and friends back home. This may seem the opposite of what you think will help. It is important to stay in touch with friends, but too much time keeps you from developing new relationships. Emailing family can be better than spending hours on the phone, which keeps you from building a relationship with your host family. 
  2. Create an “Exploration List.” Do a little research and see what interesting places you can discover in your new town….it may be restaurants, historical buildings, parks, or cultural locations. Ask your host family to help you check things off your list.  
  3. Keep a journal. Writing down your feelings and experiences helps you process your emotions. In a journal, you can be honest with how things are going, but you can also include what is going well, so you can remember when there are difficult days. 
  4. Get outside! America is full of beautiful places with lots of nature and green spaces. If writing in a journal is not interesting to you, go outside and make a photo log of your community. All of our phones have excellent quality cameras that you can use to capture the beauty around you.
  5. Get moving! Go for a walk, ride a bike, visit a gym, take an exercise class- there are lots of ways to get exercise that keeps your body and mind healthy. Research has shown that regular exercise releases a chemical in the brain that causes happiness.  
  6. Take a risk! Taking risks is scary, but can have big benefits in helping you adjust faster to your new home. Join a club or sport at school. Talk to someone new on the school bus. Volunteer to serve at church or in your community. Cook a traditional meal for your host family. There are lots of ways you can try new things and make new friends!
  7. Talk to someone you trust. When you are feeling sad about not being home, don’t be afraid to share your thoughts with your friends or AHLI Coordinator. Even if they have not experienced the same thing, they can be a support just by listening.

Remember that home will still be there when you return. Embrace your current situation as an opportunity to learn and experience new things. With time, the feelings of homesickness come less frequently. Trust the adjustment process, and you will start to become acclimated to your host family, school, and community.  


Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Seniors, reach out to me on WeChat to tell me your favorite high school memory!

Welcome Students

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”  Lamentations 3:22-23 

Welcome to the start of a new school year! We are excited to have you as part of the AHLI program and look forward to finding creative ways to engage with you over the course of the academic year. As you settle into a new routine, I want to encourage you to look at the start of school as a new opportunity – to make new friends, be more diligent in your studies, try a new club, sport, or activity, or even, let go of a habit or behavior that is holding you back from achieving your goals. 

Jumping into “newness” can be incredibly exciting or incredibly scary, depending on your point of view. Whether you are arriving to the U.S. as a new student or returning for your fourth year, the start of the school year is your chance to make a fresh start. All of us have an area we would like to improve in. This month can be your chance to develop, stretch yourself, and grow in these areas.  

Think of starting this year with a clean slate. The Bible teaches us that God’s mercies (second chances) are new every morning. God gives us a fresh start every day, but what you do with each new day is up to you. Do not waste the chance you have been given to be kinder, put others before yourself, and seek more wisdom. No matter how big the endeavor, God will help you move forward.  

A Chinese proverb says, “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, and others build windmills.” How will you respond to the winds of change this year? Will you resist and hold on to past ways, or embrace new things and build a better version of yourself? 

Your AHLI team, including your Director and Coordinator, wish you a great beginning of the year, and are excited to see the wonderful accomplishments you will have!


Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Seniors, reach out to me on WeChat to tell me your favorite high school memory!

Toward the Finish Line

Congratulations to our 30 seniors! Whether you have been studying in the U.S. for 1 year or 4 years, you are coming to the end of this important stage of your life. Graduation is the culmination of years of challenging work, and your path is even more remarkable as you have navigated through it in a different culture and second language.  

The Tour de France is a 23-day, multi-stage bicycle competition covering 3,500 kilometers. Each stage is 1 day long and consists of an average of 170 kilometers (about 105.63 mi). There are 6 flat stages, 7 hilly stages, and 6 mountain stages. For some of you, high school has been “flat” and relatively easy, while for others, school has been like climbing a mountain. For the majority, high school has been a combination of high moments and low moments, culminating this month with graduation. 

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English Proverbs

As we approach the end of April, you may hear someone say, “April showers brings May flowers.” Have you heard this saying before? On the surface, it talks about the rainy season of April giving way to the blooming of spring flowers. In our lives, this also means that difficult times or hardship bring better things, such as happiness. Proverbs are common sayings that also offer life advice. Let’s look at some other popular proverbs.  

Birds of a feather flock together: People who are alike or similar spend time together. 

Actions speak louder than words: What you do is more important than what you say. 

A picture is worth a thousand words: An image can tell a story better than many words. 

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you: Don’t hurt or anger the person who is helping you! 

People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones: Don’t criticize someone since you’re not perfect either. 

The pen is mightier than the sword: If you are trying to convince someone of something, using words can be more effective than violence. 

The early bird gets the worm: Those who get started early have the best chance of success.

The grass is greener on the other side: People always want what they don’t have. 

The squeaky wheel gets the grease: The person who complains the most gets the help. 

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: Don’t risk everything going after one goal or dream, or you could lose it all…. it is better to have multiple options.

Every country and culture have their own common sayings that help teach important life lessons. Even the Bible has a book called “Proverbs,” which was written almost 2,700 years ago by a wise King, who gave us more than 900 proverbs to help us to live our life successfully. One of my favorite sayings is Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire!” Take some time to read other “pearls of wisdom” found in Proverbs in the Bible. 


Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Reach out to me on WeChat to tell me a proverb you’ve heard before!

American Spring Holidays

Spring, which officially begins on Sunday, March 20th is full of interesting and important holidays. 

This week was the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, an Irish holiday that celebrates the patron (founding) saint of Ireland. Patrick, at age 16, was kidnapped from Roman Britain in the late 4th century and taken to Ireland as a slave. After he escaped, he remained in Ireland and preached Christianity and started many churches and schools.  Every March 17, the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death, the day is celebrated with parades and feasts, especially in Irish-American communities.

A fun holiday is on April 1st, also known as April Fools’ Day. On this day only, harmless pranks or tricks are played on friends, family members, or even strangers. April Fools is celebrated in 11 countries, across Europe and as far away as India and Brazil.  After the prank is completed, the prankster yells, “April Fools!” letting them know it was just a joke. Perhaps you and a friend can join in on the April Fools fun in two weeks!

Sunday, April 22 is the Christian religious holiday of Easter celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. This holiday actually starts 3 days before on Friday, also known as Good Friday, which is remembering the day Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross as told in the Bible. The Bible is God’s love letter to humans about his plan from the creation of the world to sending His Son to earth to live a perfect life and die in place of people and then rise again for eternity.  Christians celebrate Easter (also known as Resurrection Sunday) as the day Jesus rose from the dead.

These days, Easter is full of pictures of baby rabbits and chicks, along with the giving of candy.  Coloring hard boil eggs with bright colored dye is another modern tradition of Easter, as well as hunting for Easter eggs outside.  Many of these Easter items come from pagan (non-religious) origins representing new life that comes in Spring. Often these Easter decorations can overshadow the importance of this celebration, which is the most important holiday of the year for Christians. The resurrection of Jesus proved His claim that He is the Son of God. Easter is for remembering God’s power of life over death. At the center of the Easter story is John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son so whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.” This Easter, we hope you will join your host family in learning more about the resurrected Jesus.

Watch the Because of Him video for another perspective on Easter.


Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay

Reach out to me on WeChat and let me know an April Fools prank you’ve heard of.
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