Guatemala welcomed its new president, Bernardo Arévalo, and vice president, Karin Herrera, who officially began their presidential term for 2024-2028 this January. AFSers around the world were thrilled to discover that both leaders have been impacted by AFS: The president and first lady of Guatemala have served as AFS host parents, while the vice president is a mother of two AFS exchange students. 

The recent inauguration featured a special AFS moment with the president and first lady’s former hosted student, Katrien (exchange student from Belgium to Guatemala in 1996), attending the inauguration as a special guest, symbolizing the enduring impact of our intercultural exchanges and the unique bond built with hosted students during their experience, a true #AFSEffect.

Katrien shared her impressions from the inauguration:

AFS alumna Katrien with the new President of Guatemala Bernardo Arévalo

Guatemala holds a special place in my heart, and the AFS experience has enriched my life beyond my expectations. Initially, I gained proficiency in Spanish, later pursuing it as a subject at university, and I am now a Spanish teacher at Copenhagen International School.

My AFS host family, originally a part of my exchange journey, has transformed into a genuine family bond. Serving as a family member during the President’s inauguration has been an incredible and ongoing adventure, filled with unforgettable and surreal moments. However, the most meaningful aspect for me is the time spent together as a family, regardless of the location or circumstances.

During this journey, my host mom imparted valuable wisdom: to cherish the present but to be aware of its transience. She encouraged us to embrace our experiences with kindness and gratitude towards everyone who welcomed us as the presidential family.

President Arévalo is not the only head of state with an AFS background. Chile’s youngest ever president elected Gabriel Boric, studied abroad with AFS in 2001 (to France), while César Augusto Gaviria Trujillo served as the President of Colombia 1990-1994, having studied abroad with AFS in the United States in 1964. The AFS alumni community includes many other notable leaders, like Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Ouided Bouchamaoui from Tunisia, President of the Central European Bank Christine Lagarde, former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and many more. Find out more about AFS alumni here.