Astudent exchange programme will offer language courses to its participants who will be studying abroad for one year. American Field Service (AFS) Inter-cultural Exchanges Ltd sends local youngsters to live with host families in more than 20 countries, where they will attend school. But some students find that the language could be a barrier to a closer relationship with people in a strange environment. Kevin Lee Kin-pong, 18, who went to Brazil after taking the HKCEE last year, said: 'I had a unique experience living with my host family, but I needed about four months to overcome the language barrier. 'Before I could speak fluent Portuguese, we communicated in English with the help of body language.' AFS co-ordinator Thomas Wong Siu-hi said students would be offered introductory courses in the respective languages of their host countries. He said the AFS also provided a series of specially developed orientation activities which would help speed up their integration. 'The exchange students are usual ly called Hong Kong ambassadors, because some organisations in their host countries invite them to introduce Hong Kong,' Mr Wong said. AFS is preparing a package which they can use to promote the SAR. Many AFS participants, such as 17-year-old Rondy Law Ching-shan, became aware of the cultural differences between Hong Kong and their host country. 'In New Zealand, there is a good relationship between neighbours who will be glad to meet an unknown person in the street. But this is not the case in Hong Kong, where people are very cold,' she said. On their return this summer, the students said they seemed to be 'strangers in their own country' and it took a while to re-adjust themselves to local traditions and school life. Although AFS promises to help participants re-enter their former school for matriculation studies, they are still faced with a dilemma about Form Six places. Gloria Chau Ka-lee, who was in Norway under the programme, has secured a place at St Clare's Girls' School for the new school year which has just begun. She said it was quite diffi cult to find a school to contin ue her studies. 'Like most Form Five stu dents, I brought my HKCEE cer tificate and found the school myself.' AFS participants agreed that although there was less exam pressure in the West, the SAR's education system helped enrich their knowledge. This year, 84 students from Hong Kong will not only take part in the programme, but also act as ambassadors for the SAR.