Generously funded by Sam Gellman and his wife Suzanne Siu, a scholarship scheme was set up in honour of Sam’s mother, Jane Gellman, which allows AFS to provide full scholarship every year to one student with financial needs since 2021, giving more students to join AFS Year Exchange Program – A life-changing experience.
- Applicant should first apply and be selected for AFS Year Exchange Program
- Applicant should be a Hong Kong student aged 15-18.5
- Applicant should be physically and mentally healthy
- Applicant should be academically sound
- Applicant should be genuinely interested in intercultural learning
- Applicant should be a recipient of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) or School Textbook Assistance (TA) or Working Family Allowance (WFA)
Please click here to learn about the application procedure, prepare all necessary documents first and apply on or before 17 December 2023 (Sun). Eligible applicants will be invited to join an AFS Selection Day in 2023 (Date to be updated).
AFS, from one generation to the next
(Photo of Jane Gellman, Sam and Suzanne’ children)
Setting off by sea in 1966
Could you imagine embarking on your AFS exchange program by slow boat? Jane Gellman was an American student in 1966 when she travelled to Finland for an AFS exchange via a ten day sea journey. Jane still remembers setting off on her adventure with all of the other Europe-bound American AFS students, and that it took almost two weeks just to reach Finland to begin her 10 to 12 week exchange programme.
Whilst the exchange may have been short, its effects on Jane have lasted a lifetime. At the time of Jane’s exchange, Finland was isolated from much of the world by its closed border with the then-USSR. As personal computers did not exist, and long distance telephone calls were rare, Jane kept in touch with her family by writing letters, and she encountered only two other Americans during her exchange. She therefore focused on immersing herself in the local culture and day to day Finnish life.
Jane’s AFS exchange was the most formative and significant experience of her youth. It removed her cultural blinders, forced her to try to learn about what she did not understand, and revealed that what she knew of the world was merely the tip of the iceberg. The changes that it wrought in her continued to have its impact as she began her own family, most directly when she decided to participate in AFS again — as a host mother and in supporting her children’s decision to pursue AFS exchanges themselves.
(Family photo of Sam Gellman and Suzanne Siu)
Growing up in an AFS family
Jane’s son, Sam, was a high school student when their family hosted a German exchange student for one year. Not only did Sam and his German “brother” become best friends, but the experience united two families from disparate backgrounds and transformed their respective views on each other’s culture. To this day, Jane and the German parents will holiday together, and Sam regularly visits Dusseldorf to visit his “niece”.
The experience of hosting an exchange student inspired Sam to step out of his comfort zone and pursue an exchange experience of his own. In his junior year of high school, Sam moved to Eindhoven in the Netherlands. What he had merely read about in books became his own lived experiences. Places and people became real. And commonalities that emerged between him and individuals from other parts of the world, far outweighed the differences. This understanding not only propelled him forward but also enabled him to maintain a positive outlook through harder periods in the exchange year.
Sam is grateful for how AFS brought about both the greatest hardships that he had had to face, as well as the opportunity to overcome those difficulties through finding strength in himself and in the relationships he formed. He notes that ‘overcoming challenges is one of the great lessons and rewarding feelings that you can have in your life, and AFS gave me that experience.’
As it was for Jane, the impact of the exchange experience has been far-reaching for Sam. The friends that he met from all over the world during his exchange year formed the beginnings of his now extensive international network, and those early connections have had surprising importance for his career. For example, Sam’s most recent job involved expanding his company’s international markets. When it came time to launch the company in the Netherlands, Sam reached out to his old classmates from his exchange year and ended up hiring one of them to become the head of the Netherlands operations for his company.
The exchange experience also launched Sam on an international journey that continues to this day. While Jane is currently living in the United States, Sam has lived almost the entirety of his post-graduate life outside of the US, with the past 14 years in Hong Kong. He continues to travel and explore the world at every opportunity, and loves spending time with foreign exchange students and local host families in Hong Kong.
In setting up the Jane Gellman Scholarship, he hopes to honour his mother’s legacy of international exploration and multicultural exchange, and help to spread the “AFS effect” that he and his family have so enjoyed.
Watch Sam and Suzanne’ Sharing: