AFS provides intercultural learning experiences that bring global cultures together by helping people connect, transforming the lives of thousands of students, families, and individuals every year. With exchange programs in more than 50 countries and a large network of volunteers, educators, and staff, AFS is committed to helping participants understand their immersion experiences in a foreign culture.
Exchange programs give participants an all-access pass to discover and explore a new culture. Since 1947, AFS has given more than 400,000 students and young adult professionals the opportunity to travel abroad and embark on personal growth experiences that continue for a lifetime. This year, the worldwide network of AFS Volunteers will work with almost 13,000 students—each looking for an exciting and educational international experience.
AFS exchange programs draw people from around the world who want to get to know people from other countries. Participants live with a host family while attending school or working within a community, gaining a fresh perspective on a foreign culture. By experiencing new cultures as outsiders, AFS Participants also gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their home cultures.
All AFS programs offer participants the opportunity to build meaningful connections with everyone they meet during their experiences abroad, as well as in their home countries and within the AFS global community. These bonds start to form throughout the application and orientation process, when participants meet each other for the first time. During the experience abroad, early friendships are strengthened and new friends are made at orientations and events organized by AFS in the host country. Participants will also meet countless people in the local community through their host families, schools, workplaces and through extracurricular activities.
AFS Host Families share their homes with a new family member and open doors within their communities. Participants are carefully matched, and volunteers are always on hand to make sure the host families and students have the support and tools needed for a positive experience. Strong ties are often forged between the family and the student; in fact, many participants remain in touch with their host families for the rest of their lives.
Host families are ambassadors of their cultures. They have the unique opportunity to share their ideas, values and customs with the people they host. At the same time, AFS Host Families benefit from the experience of hosting because they have the chance to get a new perspective on their own culture by seeing it through the eyes of an outsider.
Host schools give AFS Participants the chance to interact with their peers in a social setting. They provide a place where students can share, learn and reflect on their experiences. Teachers and other students also benefit from the opportunity to bond with someone from a different culture. Exchange students bring a fresh perspectives and valuable insights, which can help their hosting schools share intercultural skills and knowledge with all students.
Since participants spend a large portion of their time in the classroom, the educational environments at these schools are especially important to the success of the AFS school-based exchange programs. AFS Staff and Volunteers work with host schools to arrange placements, provide materials and to make the most of the opportunities and challenges that come with hosting a student.