America is an immigrant country with a great diversity of people, cultures, music, food and sports—and you will find just about every climate, landscape and terrain imaginable. Pop culture is everywhere, sports and news dominate many conversations and traditions vary greatly depending on region, ethnicity and religion. It’s really hard to generalize about what to do and see in a country where the pride of every town, suburb and city is based on its unique attractions, contributions and life style.

Although high school is the center of teen life in most places in America, community and religious organizations also offer clubs (from drama to chess), volunteer activities and programs for young people. Team sports keep many students after school for practice. Football, soccer, basketball, track, baseball, swimming, volleyball and cheerleading tend to rule. High school games attract crowds of all ages. Weekends: parties, shopping, and just hanging out. Many families take schoolwork seriously (getting into good colleges is competitive), but also encourage their teens to have fun.

Culture & Community

You can live anywhere throughout the U.S., though most AFSers live with families in suburban areas or small towns. There is no “typical” American host family -your host family could be African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American or descendants of a variety of European nationalities and ethnicities. Household rule, routines and mealtimes will differ depending on the family, so try to be open to your host family’s way of life.  In general, teenagers are expected to help prepare meals and handle other household chores. Dinner is considered the main meal of the day, though sometimes family members may eat at different times due to busy work and school schedules—and take out meals are quite common. 

School

Procedures, schedules, required courses, very greatly from school to school. The school year lasts from August or September until May or June (typically 8 am to 3 pm), and is usually divided into two terms. At the beginning of the school year, students often meet with an advisor who helps them select the five or six classes for the term. Uniforms are not required for most public schools. 

Language

English is the main language spoken in the U.S., but many people also speak Spanish, or another language depending on their family background. Prior knowledge of English is required.

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Food

From burgers to barbecue chicken, pizza to pasta, salads to sushi—anything and everything American food these days. Ethnic foods of all flavors—Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Greek, you name it!—can be found even in the smallest town. But don’t miss out on good old American fare like hot dogs, clam chowder or apple pie and sweet potatoes representing down home “soul food” cooking from the American south.

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